Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, June 17, 2007

What was Banned from Discussion in the PCI for 5 Years?

For 18 years from 1868 to 1886, every General Assembly of the mainstream Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) was exercised by the lawfulness of using musical instruments in worship. It caused such a controversy that it was banned for 5 years. You can read about this in Thomas Hamilton's History of Presbyterianism in Ireland (pp. 186, 187). What happened next, I don't know, but clearly they eventually adopted the practice. However, at this point they followed the historical practice of the Presbyterian, Reformed and Baptist churches in excluding them as they were part of the temple worship and not NT practice.

It is interesting to consider how many conservative Presbyterians are troubled by the increase in the use of orchestras in worship. In many ways this is a more consistent application of the Temple practice of musical instruments where a Levitical orchestra (as well as choir) served. Consider the multitude of instruments in Psalm 150, for instance.

Baptists may be interested to note that Charles Spurgeon rejected the introduction of an organ into his church: "The great congregation which is blessed with the privilege of listening to His instruction has no organ ‘to assist' them in singing their praises to their God and Saviour. They find their vocal organs sufficient. Their tongues and voices express the gratitude of their hearts... I would just as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery."

Although the Methodist Church was a break-away from the Anglican (or Episcopalian) church, John Wesley was also surprisingly opposed to the use of organs in worship. This despite the fact that this church was responsible for the production of many of the great hymns and for leading American Presbyterianism into the use of man-made hymns earlier than other branches of the P&R churches. In fact even in 1808 the British Methodist Conference continued to ban the use of organs. It should be noted that some instruments had begun to be used prior to this.

See these quotes from prominent figures in Church history against the use of instruments in worship. Various articles, including some written by the great Southern Presbyterians Robert Dabney and John Giradeau, may be found here.

I leave you with this quote from the Presbyterian Board of Publications (Philadelphia) in 1842:

Question 6. Is there any authority for instrumental music in the worship of God under the present dispensation?

Answer. Not the least, only the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs was appointed by the apostles; not a syllable is said in the New Testament in favor of instrumental music nor was it ever introduced into the Church until after the eighth century, after the Catholics had corrupted the simplicity of the gospel by their carnal inventions. It was not allowed in the Synagogues, the parish churches of the Jews, but was confined to the Temple service and was abolished with the rites of that dispensation.


Click here for the answer...

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Stephen Steele said...

Organs were formally prohibited by the PCI in 1882. A number of bans on discussing it were introduced like the one you mention, but instruments were never sanctioned. Congregations just gradually introduced them. So instruments are still technically illegal in the PCI today.

See: R.S. Tosh ‘One hundred and fifty years of worship’ in R.F.G. Holmes and R.B. Knox (eds), The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland 1840-1990: a celebration of Irish Presbyterian witness during a century and a half (Coleraine, 1990), p. 142.

Monday, June 18, 2007 11:56:00 am  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Thanks, Steve. Useful info.

Any info on the Psalmody question in the PCI? I think that Raymond Blair said that it was decided on pragmatic, not Scriptural grounds.

The non-legal nature of instruments in the PCI reminds me about the nature of much U.S. legislation in relation to their Constitution.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 6:00:00 pm  
Anonymous Stephen Steele said...

I've just done a dissertation on the introduction of hymns in the PCI so I have a bit of info on it alright!!

Hymns were introduced in 1896. Some of the arguments were pragmatic, some used Scripture, but they are more likely to make you a more convinced exclusive psalmist than a hymn singer! The main 'scriptural' arguments would probably have been that you can't sing the name Jesus and that the psalms can't express NT revelation. Hardly any of them worried about arguing along the lines of the regulative principle however.

Of course, they banged on that no congregation would be 'forced' to sing hymns...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 11:25:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Steve,

You couldn't e-mail me that, could you? See my profile.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 11:29:00 pm  

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