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A Brotherly Testimony Against the Use of Instrumental Accompaniment In Public Worship

By Larry Birger, Jr.

Introductory Note

This letter was written to my friend's former pastor. It was subsequently forwarded to the elders of his former church, a small congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This friend had initially absented himself from corporate worship due to their use of instrumental accompaniment, and (like me: see "Why the PCA is Not a Duly Constituted Church and Why Faithful Christians Should Separate From This Corrupt 'Communion'") upon further study of the matter of the lawful constitution requisite for a church to claim lawful authority from Christ (see Calvin's Institutes, Book IV, Chapter 2, Section 12, and my piece against the PCA), determined that no such lawful authority exists in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

The use of instrumental accompaniment in the corporate worship of God's people was recognized unanimously by historic reformed writers as a return to the Judaizing ceremonies of the Roman Catholic and Episcopal (i.e. Prelatic) Churches. This was also the opinion of the ancient church, and even Aquinas is cited as excluding their use for this reason. Thus, Dabney comments (in his review of John Girardeau's book on the subject), "Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators [my emphases]."

It is a sad commentary on the disposition of the church and its leaders when those who glory in the name, 'reformed', wish to argue us back into the principles and practices of the Romish whore, and of her illegitimate offspring (Rev. 17 & 18). May God bless this little work to encourage the faithful to the recovering of our ecclesiastical heritage, to a return to the old paths wherein is rest for our souls (Jer. 6:16).

For Christ's Crown and Covenant,

Larry Birger, Jr. November 4, 1996

October 16, 1996

Dear ______,

Greetings in Christ's Name. As you may recall, I am an old friend of ______, and one who shares his views on many theological issues, including his concern over the use of instrumental music in corporate worship. I have been informed that you are no longer the pastor of ______ OPC; however, I have chosen to write to you anyway because I understand you are the (primary) author of the ______ session's letter to ______, dated July 19, and because of _______'s commendatory reports of you. I trust my thoughts on the issue will prove edifying and challenging.

By way of introduction, I commend you myself for the tone of your letter to ______. Although the position ______ maintains is that of the Reformers, yet many, if not most, in our day consider it to be trivial, legalistic, obsessive and divisive quibbling over minutiae, etc. I appreciate that you (and apparently the other men) were willing to give consideration to the material ______ presented, and that although you strongly disagree with him, yet your pastoral concern, and restraint, were evident in your response.

In the opening paragraphs of your letter, you expressed your concern and disagreement at ______'s claim that "the use of instruments in the public worship of God, in its final analysis, is to deny that Christ indeed came in the flesh." I understand your response, since I did not originally hold to my current position. However, upon reflection I trust you will see that at very least, the form of ______'s reasoning here is sound and scriptural; which reasoning can be captured succinctly in the following syllogism:

The anticipatory shadows of the ceremonial law having been abolished, any return to these shadows in the New Covenant constitutes a denial of Christ's having come in the flesh.

But the use of musical instruments in public worship was one of the anticipatory shadows of the ceremonial law.

Therefore, the use of musical instruments in New Covenant public worship is a denial of Christ's having come in the flesh.

This is the same type of reasoning underlying the Lord's denunciation of evil speech as a type or species of murder (Matt. 5:22). As the Larger Catechism captures it, "[U]nder one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occaisions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto" (Q. 99). Thus, there is no error in the form of ______'s reasoning. Its structure is valid; that is, the premises, if true, unavoidably lead to the stated conclusion.

I also trust there is no disagreement as to the truth of the major premise. Certainly the ceremonial law was anticipatory, and it has been abrogated with the incarnation of the Lord. In the very nature of the case a return to that which is anticipatory is a denial that that which is anticipated has come to pass. Therefore, the only point of contention we could have, and indeed do have, is whether the use of musical instruments in public worship formed a part of the ceremonial law.

Before I deal with this, however, I believe it helpful to expand a bit more on _____'s unpalatable assertion. When we say that the use of instruments in public worship is a denial of Christ's incarnation, we are not saying that in every way you deny the incarnation. No doubt, as you wrote, there are "many other things [you] do and say in worship which specifically state [your] belief that Christ has come in the flesh." I am confident that _____ affirms this as well, so that it is a misconstrual of his position to allege that he holds "that [your] doing one thing which [he] believe[s] is a denial that Christ has come in the flesh . . . means that [you] have totally denied as a church that Christ has come in the flesh." You further say that this "implication is present in the way [______] stated it." I disagree (unless there was something else in his letter of which I'm unaware). Nothing in my discussions with ______ would lead me to conclude he believes this, and it certainly does not hold true for his statement you quoted in the third paragraph of your letter. Neither he nor I believe this is the case with you, any more than we believe that a fellow believer who sins in speaking evil is guilty in every other instance of using his tongue to murder.

Furthermore, upon reflection I believe it is evident that the life of faith, both individually and corporately, can be summarized as a perpetual struggle to affirm that Christ came in the flesh, contrary to the repeated assertions of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Whenever we sin, we are by and in that deed, denying that Christ came to save us, for we have not availed ourselves of the power of His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:2ff.). When we lapse into works righteousness, we likewise deny, in and by that sin, the Lord's death and resurrection on our behalf (Gal. 2:16-3:3). And finally, when the church holds to a practice that pertained only to her as a church under age, she denies in and by that practice that Christ her Lord has appeared (Gal. 3:23-4:5; the entire book of Hebrews). Now, we would not consider a man as necessarily guilty of denying Christ's coming in every way simply because he was guilty of the first two examples; and neither do we consider a church guilty of denying Christ in all things simply because she offends in one.

Having said this, however, we do not minimize the aggravation of this offense in the case of the church. We contend that all denials of Christ's incarnation are heinous, but especially those which occur in the church's doctrine or practice, and these we condemn as particularly egregious for at least two reasons. First, we condemn such because of the nature and function of the church. The church, considered in her form (that is, government and ordinances) is to be the pillar and support of the truth (I Tim. 3:15) and the light of the world (Matt. 5:14f.). As such, she should be a guide to the blind (Rom. 2:19-20) and a tender mother to her weak and weary children sojourning in this sin-cursed wasteland (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 5:2). Her job is to encourage and exhort her children to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering (Heb. 10:23), which profession is that God has sent the promised Messiah to rescue us. This she does by her pure doctrine and its faithful exposition, her public worship, and her diligent government and discipline. Therefore, for her in any of these means of grace to deny (whether wittingly, or unwittingly) that the Messiah has come in the flesh is to work toward the undermining of the profession of her children's faith.

The second reason such a denial, in doctrine or practice, is so aggravated when found in the church of our day is because of our place in redemptive history. Considered abstractly or principially (as in the first reason), any denial is reprehensible. It becomes even more so, however, when it is in direct contradiction to centuries of practice and teaching by the church. In this case it is a sin not only regarding the matter itself, but also in regard to the church's corporate sanctification. This is evident because God has in numerous places commanded us to hold fast the truth (Phil. 4:1; Rev. 2:25) and to live up to the level of sanctification He's been pleased to grant thus far (Eph. 4:11-15; Phil. 3:16). When we corporately backslide by deforming from reformation He's granted, we are doubly damned: "And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" (Ezra 9:13-14). This is one major reason why the Protestant reformation is so important to us today (more on this below). The historical position of reformed (and pre-reformed) churches on the matter of instrumental music in her public worship is set forth clearly by Dabney:

Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators [my emphases].
Therefore, if ______ is correct in his analysis of the import of including musical instruments in public worship, it is a violation not only materially, but also as regards the church's corporate sanctification. As such, it is sinning against the light on the part of the church, who God regards as one moral person, spanning both temporal and geographical boundaries (Ps. 66:6; Hos. 12:4; Gal. 3:23-25; 4:3); who herself (and not just her individual members) is undergoing sanctification (Eph. 4:11-15).

Now, to the heart of the matter. There are a number of specifics in your letter to ______ that I desire to address, but, as time escapes me, I will focus on the heart of your argument, found most clearly on pages 3 and 5: "[T]he strongest Scriptural warrant we know of, for the use of instrumental accompaniment in new covenant worship, is its institution in the regular, public, and corporate services of the temple. . . . God instituted instrumental accompaniment in regular public worship under the administration of King David (I Chr 15 & 16), and has not abrogated its institution (Mt 5.17-20)." It is clear from these and other statements that you consider the use of instruments in worship to be part of the moral law, which abides forever, not having expired with the types of the Jewish church and nation. Yet, you regard as the strongest confirmation of a supposedly moral duty its institution in a situation which is perhaps the most clearly typical of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament! To the contrary, I would think that if one wished to determine whether some aspect of Old Covenant cultus was moral or simply typical, the strongest demonstration he could offer that it was typical is that the matter in question was instituted in and practiced in only those circumstances which are clearly typical. Of these circumstances, the temple and its priesthood offer perhaps the most clear examples in all the Scripture of the weak and beggarly things which were done away with at the coming of Christ. This is precisely why Kevin Reed, and centuries of Reformed (and pre-reformed) writers, contend that "the burden of proof rests with the proponents of instrumental music; they must prove a divine warrant for such service apart from tabernacle or temple ordinances, if they wish to introduce instrumental music into new covenant worship." (Biblical Worship, p. 65).

I would note here how you seemed to have missed the point (or the strength) of the argument. You go on to say that, "[a]pparently Reed is thinking of 'the use of instruments in conjunction with prophetic offices, or musical pursuits associated with everyday life.'" You indicate that this is what Reed would consider appropriate extra-temple examples, when in fact he is only agreeing with your conclusion: "we believe that the prophetic use of instrumental music, and musical pursuits in everyday life in the Bible, offer little help in understanding the place of instruments in public worship." So it is not contrary to Reed, or to us, for you to say that "the central issue is the use of instruments in the regular, public, and corporate worship of God." This is precisely the issue. But it is nothing short of amazing for you then to turn around and say that the hermeneutic by which we will delineate a clear moral requirement for the regular, public, and corporate worship of the New Covenant is by considering the services of the temple. When we call for support other than its use in temple worship, we are simply requiring that which is true by definition of the moral (versus ceremonial) law: because the worship of the temple and its priesthood are the epitome of ceremonial ordinances, we cannot consider them to be our guide in determining that which is not ceremonial.

I really should not have to say any more by way of refutation. It ought to be clear, prima facie, that far from being the strongest warrant for your position, your argument is actually the strongest warrant against it. However, consider it from another angle. In positively proving one's position, one must demonstrate not only that it is plausible (at least in its isolated context, apart from the rest of Scripture), but that it is necessary; that is, that it and only it does justice to the facts of Scripture, and that to the exclusion of competing opinions. This your argument does not do. Even granting its plausibility, it does nothing to show that our paradigm does not adequately take into account temple worship (or the examples of David and the women-- see below). But if your argument does not exclude our position, then an appeal to the temple worship is equivocal; and certainly equivocal argumentation will not suffice as definitive proof for or against any position.

This highlights the argument proffered by the author of the Blue Banner article, which you criticize: "A great deal of what the author says is argument from silence, and we think that silence, in this matter, doesn't speak well for itself. . . . [the author] seems to mean that warrants for new covenant worship must come from the pages of the New Testament. After noting several New Testament silences, the author quotes Dabney, who says, 'For His Christian church, the non-appointment of mechanical accompaniment was its prohibition'". It is immediately following this criticism of the alleged fallacious arguing from silence that you put forth your own remarkable position about the institution of instruments in the temple service. Again, I submit that you have missed the point. The New Testament does not give us a full enumeration of the particulars of ceremonial worship done away with in the abrogation of the Levitical priesthood. Rather, it categorically dismisses this priesthood (and all other Old Testament ceremonies), and offers but a few instances of what are included in this. It assumes we can and will follow through with the application (as in the syllogism earlier). Therefore, arguing from New Testament silence in this case is not at all fallacious, but to be expected. That which passed away with the coming of Christ is not to be continued in the New Covenant era. If any particular associated repeatedly with that which the New Testament categorically declares to have been abrogated (viz., the temple service and its priesthood) is not repeated in the New Testament (i.e. silence), though that particular may not have been explicitly declared to be in the category abrogated, yet it is to be regarded as abrogated by that very New Testament silence. (Similarly, the New Testament silence regarding infant baptism is not an argument against the practice, but for it; though the cases differ insomuch as the sign and seal of the righteousness that is by faith is perpetual in the church. The point here is that arguments from silence are not always fallacious. This is true in jurisprudence, too, where the absence of sufficient evidence ["silence"] must result in a conclusion: not guilty.).

For confirmation of my criticism, consider the absurdities which result from its denial. You have stated, "[T]he strongest Scriptural warrant we know of, for the use of instrumental accompaniment in new covenant worship, is its institution in the regular, public, and corporate services of the temple." You said that New Testament silence in this matter is no refutation of your position. Yet, your paradigm, if followed, proves far more than what (I believe, at least) you would like, for we do not in the pages of the New Testament find specifically abrogated the dance, shouting, clapping hands, burning incense, washing in the laver, and any number of similar practices. Yet, I am confident you are not in favor of instituting these in our New Covenant worship. Why then institute the use of instruments? There is no reason to include this and exclude those, except arbitrary preference. Such arbitrariness, however, is inherently irrational, and it just as easily allows us by our own arbitrary preference to exclude instruments from our worship. Thus, as I demonstrated earlier, your argument, at best, is equivocal: it allows equally for opposing conclusions.

Perhaps at this juncture you would object that we are not at all left at liberty in the issue of using instrumental music in our corporate worship, for never are we at liberty to disregard a command of the moral law. Hence, you say, "[Price] answers that instruments were a commanded circumstance. With this we agree. . . . Psalm 33.2 says, 'Praise the LORD with the harp.' This is an explicit call to praise the LORD to the accompaniment of an instrument. Psalm 33.3 says, 'Play skillfully with a shout of joy"--a clear summons to work an instrument to the accompaniment of praise. Though there seems to be no inseparable link between instruments and Levitical musicians, or instruments and ceremonial types, instruments are united explicitly in Scripture with songs of praise in the public worship of God." As already indicated, these passages (and the others referenced in your appendix) do not unequivocally exclude our position. It is no novelty to find the Old or New Testament employing the language of Old Testament ceremonies to express moral duties or precious truths (e.g. II Chr. 6:20-40; I Cor. 5; Heb. 13:11-13). Therefore, your only unequivocal proof of this being a moral requirement appears to be to assume that it is a moral requirement (unless you have other evidence not adduced in your letter); but this is simply to beg the question.

However, for argument's sake, let's assume that "God instituted instrumental accompaniment in regular public worship under the administration of King David (I Chr 15 & 16), and has not abrogated its institution (Mt 5.17-20)." I reply with Reed's observation: "Moreover, should the proponents of instrumental music establish a warrant for their use in public worship, it would seem incumbent upon them to restore only the 'instruments of David,' or such specific instruments as were divinely ordained for use in worship" (ibid., p. 65). Greg Price made the same criticism, and I think your silence regarding this reductio ad absurdum doesn't speak well for itself. It is evident that in Israel's revivals, a preeminent feature was that all things were done according to what had been prescribed by the LORD, particularly through David. If the Old Testament use of instruments was instituted not only generically, but specifically, and if a mark of true revival was the reinstitution of these (and other) specifics, why in the New Covenant doesn't this same requirement apply (Matt. 5:17-20)? Once again, it is clear that your argument proves too much; or, you are again guilty of arbitrariness, inasmuch as you assert the generic use of instruments in praising God to be required, but do not require strict adherence to the specifics also instituted by God. It seems clear to me that if your position were indeed correct, you would stand self condemned by the very verses employed to support it: "For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:18-19). If we believe David is calling us in the Psalms to worship God using instruments, then let us also be like David and follow every jot and tittle concerning those instruments, like the greater David taught in the preceding verses.

In closing, I desire to address three more points in your letter. First, you consider our assertion of the use of instruments in public worship as being Levitical to be overthrown by I Chr. 13:8, 15:29, and Psalm 68:25. To use your words, "[the first two references] say that King David, who was from the tribe of Judah played instruments in public worship. [The last reference] says that among the singers were 'maidens playing timbrels.' Instrumental accompaniment in regular public worship was not exclusively performed by Levite priests. The Bible itself offers this evidence." Now, without attending to anything else, it should be clear that these examples do not afford the warrant you suppose. Your argument (as stated here and elsewhere), calls for the use of instruments in the "regular public worship of God". In context, none of these can be considered regular, and they therefore provide warrant for regular public worship only if we can argue that from the irregular, we may derive what our practice is to be for the regular.

But more than this, are you comfortable in appealing to what David, one of the premier types of the Old Testament, did for what we ought to do in our regular corporate worship today (or even for what the Old Testament saints themselves should have done regularly in the Old Testament)? If so, this, at best, is nothing more than the same appeal to that which is clearly ceremonial or typological, which was refuted above. This leaves only one verse, then-- one verse!-- to refute our paradigm. It seems to me that this fact alone should make you very hesitant. And, again, this verse at best only amounts to making your position plausible, for it in no wise contradicts our position, but rather harmonizes well with it. For either a) the women (or some women) were allowed to take part in Old Testament ceremonial worship; b) this is a reference to the women who played the timbrel with Miriam in the celebration of the devastation of Pharaoh at the Red Sea (which was neither regular worship, nor even formal worship at all, but more of a civil celebration), in which case "They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary" would refer not to the place or time where these players on instruments did their playing, but rather to where the saints heard of this old deliverance, with its celebration, recounted anew; that is, in the preaching at the sanctuary; or c) this is a reference to David leading captivity captive (in his bringing back of the ark-- I Chr. 13 & 15) as a type of the greater David (Ps. 68:18). If a), then we dismiss the practice as having been abrogated with the advent of Christ; if b) (which I favor), then we simply follow the Psalmist's lead in rejoicing in our corporate gatherings as we remember this great deliverance; or if c), we again note that such ceremonial types are not to be continued (and this, again, did not constitute regular public worship). Thus, for you, as has been noted of other elements of your argument, at best this single verse is equivocal, and forms no solid foundation on which to build your position.

In keeping with option b), please consider the following comments by David Dickson (the Scottish divine of the mid-1600's) in his Explication of the Psalms (italics original; bold emphases added):

24. They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
25. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.

To confirm what is promised, he bringeth forth old experiences acknowledged by the enemies, registered in the word of the Lord, and read in the temple. Whence learn, 1. The Lord useth to work so evidently for his people, and against his enemies, that both his people and their enemies are made witnesses, and are forced to acknowledge the Lord's work: they have seen thy goings, O God. 2. It is the glory of a people, when God so worketh, as he is seen to be their God, their leader, their defender, and all as in covenant with them: they have seen thy goings, O God, even the goings of my God, saith he. 3. That God's honour may be seen, man's honour should be laid down at his feet: and supposing a man were the greatest king, yet is it greater glory and matter of contentment to have God for his king, than to be a king without God: they have seen thy goings, O my God, my King, saith David, now settled in the kingdom. 4. The most clear, sure, and profitable sight of the Lord's work and ways, is to be had in the use of public ordinances, where his name, nature, covenant, and course he keepeth with all men, together with the causes, use, and ends of his works, are to be seen: they have seen the goings of my God in the sanctuary. 5. Where all the people receive a benefit, it becometh all the people publicly and solemnly, and with their best expression of affection, as God appointeth, to praise God, and in his worship to see that all things may be done orderly, as Israel did, when they came through the Red Sea, and at other times as the Lord gave occasion: the singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; amongst them, in the middle ward, the damsels playing with timbrels. 6. All the powers of our souls and bodies should concur, each of them in its own order, with the best harmony of knowledge, affections, and expressions which can be attained, for setting forth the Lord's praises, and our obligation to him for his goodness to his people; and so should we march on all the days of our pilgrimage and warfare, till we come to the promised rest; for this the external ceremonies used under the pedagogy of the law, taught; which ceremonies, although they be abolished now, yet the substance and intended duties pointed at in them, being moral, still remain: the singers went before, players on instruments followed after, &c.

Secondly, you stated (in your discussion of the Blue Banner article), "We believe that we have such a [Scriptural] warrant and, in the light of this belief, we don't agree that we must fight against the opposite position for the reason that it has been held by eminent Reformed men. We believe in sola Scriptura." You here claim the high ground of sola Scriptura, as though we or the article's author believed otherwise, and were ultimately basing our argument upon the authority of men or of the church. However, we-- ______, I, the author, and the eminent reformed men-- believe(d) in sola Scriptura as well. Thus, the historical testimony adduced cannot be so conveniently swept aside. Rather, it is precisely because we do all believe in sola Scriptura-- which informs us that God has given uninspired teachers to the church for the edification and maturation of the body (Eph. 4)-- that we appeal to such teachers and challenge you to show us where this majority of godly and learned men have gone awry in their conclusions about musical instruments in public worship. The unanimity of the church in this regard, especially amongst the reformers, makes your position all the more suspicious. I know of no historic reformed creeds, or reformed authors before the 18th (if not the 19th) century, that teach anything other than what we are maintaining: that the use of instruments in public worship was one of the practices abolished with the ceremonial shadows of the Old Covenant.

Moreover, not only do we appeal to our forefathers' wisdom, and question yours, in light of your contradiction of centuries of orthodoxy, but we appeal to their authority. The Westminster Confession states that "decrees and determinations [of lawfully constituted synods and councils], if consonant to the word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission, not only for their agreement with the word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God, appointed thereunto in his word" (31:3). We Presbyterians are ecclesiastical descendants of the church of Scotland who adopted that Confession (and whose delegates played a vital role in drafting it); and so I ask, by what authority do you overthrow this decision of our ecclesiastical fathers? Their position was clearly in agreement with ours (see quote in next paragraph).

It also seems rather hypocritical for you to make reference to the Westminster Confession (19:3, regarding the ceremonial law) to support your position. I say this not only because the same remark just criticized ("We believe in sola Scriptura," etc.) could be used against you here, as it was with ______, but because the Westminster Assembly eschewed the use of instruments in the public worship of God. This is evident from the following letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, from their delegates to the Westminster Assembly, dated May 4, 1644:

As we cannot but admire the good hand of GOD in the great things done here already, particularly; That the Covenant [the Solemn League and Covenant, the foundation of the Westminster Assembly's work] is taken, Prelacie and the whole train thereof, extirpated; The Service-Book in many places forsaken, plain and powerful preaching set up; Many Colledges in Cambridge provided with such Ministers, as are most zealous of the best Reformation; Altars removed; The Communion in some places given at the Table with sitting [as prescribed in the Directory for Public Worship produced by the Assembly]; The great Organs at Pauls and of Peters in Westminster abolished; The Chappel-royal at Whitehal purged and reformed; and all by Authority in a quiet manner at noon day, without tumult: So have we from so notable experience, joyned with the promises of the Word, sufficient ground of confidence, that GOD will perfect this Work against all opposition, and of encouragement for us all to be faithfull in the Work of GOD, which is carried on by his mighty Hand, that no man can oppose it, but he must be seen fighting against GOD. [Signed by Alex. Henderson, Sam. Rutherfurd, Robert Baillie, George Gillespie, Jo. Maitland.]--Records of the Kirk of Scotland, Containing the Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies, from the Year 1638 Downwards, by Alexander Peterkin, Edinburgh, 1838, pp. 400-401; bold emphases added.
Perhaps the Westminster divines incorrectly applied their correctly enunciated principle (in 19:3), by including instruments under the rubric of the ceremonial law. If so, it behooves you to explain such a significant mistake on their part, rather than referencing their work as though they were in agreement with you in excluding instruments in public worship from the ceremonial law.

Thirdly, and finally, I will speak briefly concerning the actual matter of this reference from the Westminster Confession. The section cited states, "God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws containing several typical ordinances; partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly holding forth divers instructions of moral duties." You dealt with the respective parts, inquiring first, with respect to the ordinances of worship, "What Scriptures, we ask, actually teach that instrumental accompaniment prefigured any of these things?" You repeated often in your letter your firm conviction that our assertion of instruments prefiguring the fullness of joy realized by the New Covenant believer was "mere speculation": "It appears that [Girardeau] merely presupposes a dubious psychology of music as a man-centered rationale for instrumental accompaniment. . . . We desire to hear Scripture's teaching, not metaphorical philosophy or speculations." Regarding the instructions of moral duties, you cited I Cor. 5:7 (which I agree is apropos), and went on to allege, "If one assumes that Old Testament laws concerning instruments apply in this way, 'Play skillfully' (Ps 33.3) would mean something like 'Do your work well' in New Testament times. This seems to be stretching things." You conclude, "Laws concerning instrumentation [if anything] would seem to fall rather into the 'worship' part mentioned in the Confession," and then deny that it is reasonable to place them there, for to do so would not be Scripture's teaching, but "metaphorical philosophy or speculations." Instead, "the laws concerning instrumental accompaniment are either among the moral laws binding all men, or among laws that don't fit into the Confession's three-part division of moral, civil, and ceremonial laws."

I need only remind you of what I just noted, that in the view of the framers of the Confession it was quite reasonable to suppose that instrumental music forshadowed the benefits procured by Christ. Which benefits? As you noted of our position, a primary benefit is the fullness of the New Covenant believer's joy, flowing from the free and full effusion of the Holy Spirit sent from the Father on Christ's behalf. Moreover, your comment that playing skillfully "would mean something like 'Do your work well' in New Testament times," is ludicrous. If, as you say, "instruments are united explicitly in Scripture with songs of praise in the public worship of God," then it seems very easy as well to relegate instruments to the category of typical ordinances "holding forth divers instructions of moral duties," inasmuch as the singing of psalms with grace in the heart and rejoicing in the Lord are moral duties.

Whichever of these two categories one chooses in which to place the use of instruments in Old Testament worship, regarding their use as ceremonial or typical is far from fanciful speculation. You asked repeatedly which Scriptures teach that these instruments foreshadow the New Covenant believer's joy. Some of this evidence comes right from the verses you listed in your appendix. Frankly, I should think you'd be embarrassed at providing the very material by which I may answer your objections. For example, Psalm 33:1 begins with the command to rejoice, saying that "praise is comely for the upright," and then goes on to enjoin praise with a harp, etc. The wording of Psalm 43:4 would lead us to conclude a conjunction between instruments and joy: "Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God." Note as well that this verse not only conjoins the harp with joy, but the going to the altar of God-- clearly a profound truth couched in ceremonial shadows, whatever one concludes concerning the harp. Psalm 47 is a rousing call to rejoice in the triumph of our terrible King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is in this context of exultation that the trumpets are mentioned. And, as I argued earlier, why are you not also asserting the inclusion of shouting and clapping in worship, based on Psalms like these? Do you use trumpets in your worship services at _____ OPC? The choice of instruments was not left to the discretion of the worshippers, after all. Psalm 49:4 speaks of disclosing mysteries on the harp. We have the mystery of the gospel which was before hidden, now made clearly known to us, not by a Levite, but by the Great High Priest, through His Spirit (Eph. 3:3ff.). But I need go no further. Look back at the verses yourself and note how their context is often clearly that of overflowing joy. Notice as well how many other undeniably ceremonial trappings are interspersed with the references to musical instruments; for example, Psalm 81:2-4: "Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day. For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob".

I agree wholeheartedly with you that ______'s allegation, that the use of instruments in the public worship of the New Covenant is a denial of Christ's incarnation, "is a very important charge and one which needs to be cleared up." I hope that after considering my modest challenge to the ______ OPC session's stated position it will indeed be cleared up, by a humble acknowledgement of their error and sin in departing from the good old paths cleared and re-cleared (at the reformation) by our forefathers, and embracing instead the errors of Popery's and Prelacy's judaizing practices. May our sovereign and merciful God bless to that end.

"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. . . .But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. . . .Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." (Prov. 22:28; Rev. 2:25; Jer. 6:16).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Larry D. Birger, Jr.



Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church
"To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery," says Calvin, "unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures; but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving."Calvin continues: "With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like chil-dren, by such rudiments until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mis-taken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time." He further observes: "We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this re-spect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God's ancient people as to ape it in a sense-less and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel." Written in 1888, this book was highly praised by R.L. Dabney (in a review which we have bound together with this printing). Dabney notes "Dr. Girardeau has defended the old usage of our church with a moral courage, loyalty to truth, clearness of reasoning and wealth of learning which should make every true Presbyterian proud of him, whether he adopts his conclusions or not. The framework of his argument is this: it begins with that vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in His Word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by Him is thereby forbidden. Christ and His apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except for the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators." Arguments from Scripture, history and creedal standards are all considered, while objections are noted and countered. Given the present rejection of the regulative principle of worship in most Protestant quarters, this book is even more valuable today than when it was first written. It contains the best discussion of Biblical and Godly guidelines regarding worship in general, and the instrumental music question in particular, that has come to us out of the 19th century. Defending the Apostolic [and later Puritan and Reformed] position, against Popish innovations, Girardeau clearly lays down what God requires in the area of public worship. Public worship is a most important area of duty and privilege and Girardeau's is the best book on the instrument question.
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $29.95-70%=8.99


Discretionary Power of the Church (1875)
Must reading for all regarding worship. Proclaims the only antidote to spiritual tyranny in the Church, while showing the only sure way to know that you are pleasing God in worship. Girardeau, a Southern Presbyterian, is often referred to as the "Spurgeon of the South."
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $9.95-60%=3.98


Heart and Voice: Instruments in Christian Worship Not Authorized (1873)
"The Early church did not use instrumental music in its worship.... They considered the practice as pagan or Jewish rather than Chris-tian. Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, in his work The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship says: 'As is well known, the ancient church did not admit the use of instrumental music in worship. It was looked upon as a form of worship which like the sacrifices of the Jerusalem temple prefigured the worship in spirit and truth....'" (Needham, The Presbyterian, #32, p. 35). This book contains advanced exegetical study of the second commandment (from the Hebrew) and upholds the regulative principle of worship. It's a vindication of the Westminster Confession against all ritualistic practices that give the Church the power to decree rites and ceremonies -- a power that denies the sovereignty of God. Glasgow proclaims that he has "sought to vindicate the words of the Westminster Confession," and has made his "appeal 'to the law and to the testimony." He also demonstrates why it was that many of the Reformers regarded the use of instrumental music in public worship as the "badge of Popery."
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $39.95-75%=9.99


How Best to Secure a Return to the Use of the Psalms in the Ordinance of Praise
Superb, strongly worded, Biblical teaching on the proper method of lovingly bringing peace and purity to the body of Christ. The author contends that "hymn-singing in the service of praise is in its ultimate analysis a species of idolatry," and thus must be strenuously opposed. Numerous practical methods (and the rationale) to promote Psalmody and oppose the use of man-made "hymns" in the public worship service are given. These arguments apply equally well concerning the eradication of the idolatry practiced when musical instruments are used in public worship. From McNaugher's The Psalms in Worship.


A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded on the Church of Scotland (1637, reprinted from the 1660 edition)
George Gillespie was one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, the youngest member there, and undoubtedly one of the most influential. Concerning this book Coldwell writes, "It is an exhaustive defense of that Reformation principle that it is God's right to order the institutions of worship in His church.... The book first appeared on the eve of the second Reformation, sparked by an attempt by Charles I to impose Anglo-Catholic worship forms on Presbyterian Scotland. It fell like a thunderclap, silencing any argument, except that of force, against which the Scots rose up in a defensive war. The book was never answered. Although removed from us by more than 350 years, this book is still a powerful argument against modern liturgical renewal movements. It also has application to that baser error of the Church Growth Movement, which has reproduced the expressions of modern entertainment and showmanship in God's worship, and subjected His institutions and ordinances to the rules of expediency, marketing and caprice, loosing the church from that biblical mooring, Sola Scriptura" (back cover of Naphtali Press, hardcover, reprinted 1993. Naphtali's hardcover edition has been edited to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and usage. Valuable indices and introductions have also been added. If you don't mind paying the extra money this hardcover edition is definitely superior to our photocopy version, for the editor (Chris Coldwell) has done a splendid job of making this book much more understandable to the modern reader. The hardcover should be ordered directly from Naphtali Press, [P.O. Box 141084, Dallas, TX, 75214]. It retails for $49.95 US funds.). William Hetherington observes "The effect produced by this singularly able work may be conjectured from the fact that within a few months of its publication, a proclamation was issued by the Privy Council, at the instigation of the Bishops, commanding that all copies of the book that could be found be called in and burned by the hangman. Such was the only answer that all the learned Scottish Prelates could give to a treatise written by a youth who was only in his twenty-fifth year when it appeared" ("Memoir," from the WORKS of Gillespie, p. xviii.). James Bannerman notes, "This was Gillespie's first work, and it may be truly said to have settled the controversy which called it forth, so far as argument was concerned. No answer to it was ever attempted by the Prelatic party; and no answer was possible. It displays singular acuteness, learning, and force of reasoning; and the thoroughness of the discussion is as remarkable as the power with which it is conducted" (The Church of Christ, vol. 2., p. 435). Possibly the best book ever written on biblical worship, an extensive and thorough masterpiece that leaves no stone unturned. For advanced study only. (Rare Bound Photocopy)
$39.95 - 78% = 8.79


Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting from the Revolution Church of Scotland. Also Their Principles Concerning Civil Government, and the Difference Betwixt the Reformation and Revolution Principles (1731)
An exceedingly rare and important book. The Contending Witness magazine (May, 1841) described Plain Reasons "as the single best volume penned defending the principles of the second Reformation." It sets forth "the grounds why Presbyterian Dissenters refused to hold communion with the revolution church and state," (Reformed Presbytery, Act Declaration and Testimony for the Whole of Our Covenanted Reformation, p. 154n). These principles still apply today and this still remains one of the best books explaining why and when an individual (our church) should separate itself from those (in church or state) who do not hold fast to all the attainments of our covenanted forefathers. The Reformed Presbytery's Act, Declaration and Testimony (p. 47) further explains the context of the so-called "glorious revolution of 1688" and overthrow of the Royalist tyranny with these words, "for in a few months, God in his righteous judgement and adorable providence, overturned that (Royalist--RB) throne of iniquity on which they depended, and expelled that inhuman, cruel monster (the duke of York--RB), from his tyrannical and usurped power, upon the Prince of Orange's (William--RB) coming over into England, in the beginning of November that same year (1688--RB). But although the Lord at this juncture, and by this means, rescued and delivered our natural and civil rights and privileges in a national way, from under the oppression and bondage of anti-christian tyranny, arbitrary and absolute power; yet the revolution, at this time, brought no real deliverance to the church of God; but Christ's rights (by these [rights--RB] are not meant the rights of Christ personal. It is not in the power of mortals, or any creature, to acquire and secure these to him; but the rights of Christ mystical, that is, of the church, or of his truth, true worship, and religion, and professors of it as such.), formerly acquired for him by his faithful servants, lay still buried under the rubbish of that anti-christian building of prelacy, erected on the ruins of his work in this land; and the spiritual liberties and privileges of his house remained, and do still remain under the bondage of Erastianism, supremacy, toleration, etc. For it is well known, that although this man (William of Orange--RB), Jehu-like, 'destroyed Baal out of Israel, yet he departed not from the sins of Jereboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin.'" See pages 55 and following in the Act, Declaration and Testimony for more on "the grounds of the presbytery's testimony against the constitutions, both civil and ecclesiastical, at the late revolution, anno 1689; as also against the gross Erastianism and tyranny that has attended the administration both of church and state, since that memorable period; with various instances thereof, etc." The only drawback that needs to be noted, regarding Clarkson's Plain Reasons, is that a few of the pages (the book being as rare as it is) in the only copy that we have been able to obtain, are a little hard to read. Even so, most of the book is easily legible and contains the highest quality of Reformation thought regarding the subjects of which it deals.
(Rare bound photocopy) $99.95-90%=9.99


Strictures on Occasional Hearing
An inquiry into Song 1:7, "Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?" This book sets out to demonstrates the proposition that one should not hear the public preaching of those he can not take communion with (i.e. it proposes a ban on occasionally hearing those with whom you can not maintain organic fellowship with). The implications contained in this truth are immense; especially when one has adopted the Biblical doctrine of close communion and is set upon upholding the covenanted reformation. The duty to separation and to true visible unity are all encompassed here. A review of this book, written in 1818, notes that the "treatise may be viewed as a complete repository of all that has yet been said on the subject." It is filled with Scriptural, as well as historical testimony, and is a welcome tonic to the weak and compromising books of our day that so often sacrifice the truth of the altar of some other man made expediency (such as unity for political or ecclesiastical advantage). For as the introduction notes, "It is the revealed will of God, and not saintship, which is the only rule of a visible profession." That Christians exist in other denominations is not denied, but that they are faithful to the covenanted reformation (already historically obtained) is. The arguments set forth here are reminiscent of those found in Rutherford's Due Right of Presbyteries. If you are struggling with questions related to separation, the unity of the visible church, close communion, etc. this book may be exactly what you've been looking for. A massive appendix also lays out the historical testimony concerning this matter.
(Rare Bound Photocopy) $39.95-80%=7.99


Concerning Close Communion
An strong little book that should be considered by all those seeking the purity and peace of the church. Holds to the strict old covenanted Presbyterian position. Justifies the maintaining of the separate existence of a denomination that will faithfully testify against sin, and the excluding from the Lord's table those that do not so testify. Gives numerous examples of backsliding in regard to specific truths of Scripture. Proclaims that "the Word of God teaches unequivocally that the Commandments are equally binding." This includes the first commandment as it relates to Christ's Kingship over the nations (and dissent from immoral civil governments which will not recognize and obey Christ as King and law giver); and the second commandment concerning purity of worship (as against "all devising, counselling, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God Himself," such as the use of songs other than the Psalms and the Popish use of musical instruments in public worship). Maintains that violation of these commandments are grounds for barring a person from the Lord's table. Shows how close communion is nothing more than the old Presbyterian view, in keeping with the Westminster Confession of Faith and John Calvin when he stated "We are only contending about the true and lawful constitution of the church, required in the communion not only of the sacraments (which are the signs of profession) but also especially of doctrine" (John Calvin, Institutes 2.12). Also includes an excellent discussion of essentials and non-essentials, as they relate to the Lord's supper and salvation. The best short book on the Lord's supper that we have seen. Written by an RPCNA minister in large easy-to-read type.


An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion, Adopted by the Community of Dissenters, etc.
Defends the inescapable necessity of creeds and confessions, while promoting a fully creedal church membership. Shows how the law of God obliges all Christians "to think the same things, and to speak the same things; holding fast the form of sound words, and keeping the ordinances as they have been delivered to us" (Col. 3:13). After laying some basic groundwork, this book proceeds to defend the six points of the "Terms of Ministerial and Christian Communion Agreed Upon by the Reformed Presbytery." These six points are the most conservative and comprehensive short statements of consistent Presbyterianism you will likely ever see. Besides the obvious acknowledgement of the alone infallible Scriptures, the Westminster Standards, and the divine right of Presbyterianism, these points also maintain the perpetual obligation of our Covenants, National and Solemn League, the Renovation of these covenants at Auchensaugh in 1712, and the Judicial Act, Declaration and Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery. In short, this book sets forth adherence to the whole of the covenanted reformation, in both church and state, as it has been attained by our covenanting forefathers.

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