Monday, January 02, 2006

To Sing or Not to Sing?

To sing or not to sing, that is the question. You might be surprised that it hasn't always been answered "to sing".

"The earliest Baptist worship was lengthy and dealt primarily with Bible exposition. There was no singing, and Baptists put great value upon spontaneity and audience participation.

By the 1670s, some Baptist churches were singing both the Psalms and 'man-made' songs. This was quite controversial, and many churches split over the 'singing controversy.' Benjamin Keach, a London pastor, led his church to sing a hymn after the Lord’s Supper, and within a few years they were also singing during regular worship services. In 1691, Keach published the first Baptist hymnal, Spiritual Melody, a collection of over three hundred hymns." - Leon McBeth

"...Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." - Hebrews 13:15


amity said...

How did those early Baptists who opposed singing deal with the many N.T. sources that seem to endorse and even to command singing:
Rom. 15:9
I Cor. 14:15
Eph. 5:19
Col. 3:16
Heb. 2:12
Jas. 5:13

R. L. Vaughn said...

Seems pretty incredible from our vantage point, doesn't it?

I think some of the objections were:

It was "Promiscuous" singing, which appears to mean congregational singing of many people together, perhaps some who were not members of the church (or, those who professed Christianity mixed with those who did not).

It was based on "artificial" rhymes and not Scripture.

It was by folks in general by natural gift, rather than from an extraordinary Spiritual gift (e.g. ICor 14)

I'm not sure I can explain it since I don't really understand their objections that well. Goadby mentions it in his "Bye-Paths in Baptist History" and Leon McBeth gives excerpts from arguments pro and con in his "A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage." I'll look around and see if I find anything on the internet about it.

R. L. Vaughn said...

One thing I forgot. Another objection was that the women were singing (in violation of (ICor 14). I found some things online.

On this first link, Tim Binion talks about Thomas Grantham's objections. Look under "Baptist Worship".
[URL=]17th Century Baptists[/URL]

Goadby's "Bye-Paths" is online. This link is his chapter 12.

Or here:
(a little larger print)

A little on Isaac Marlow:

When the Philadelphia Baptist Association reprinted (ca. 1742) the old London Baptist Confession, they added an article on singing being an ordinance of Christ.

amity said...

Is the controversy over whether it was allowable to sing hymns or if only psalms could be sung going to be in your next post? I have a source on that one!

And don't we ever appreciate the way these early controversies were resolved?

R. L. Vaughn said...

No. I'll finally get around to posting "Do shape notes work?" tomorrow, Lord willing.

Sorry about the links. They look like they didn't come through properly.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Just trying to see if I can make the links work or display properly.

Bye-Paths in Baptist History

Christian's Baptist History

Musical Discord

17th Century Baptists

R. L. Vaughn said...

A source for a couple of short paragraphs on the subject, pro and con, is "Baptist Life and Thought 1600-1980", edited by William H. Brackney, Judson Press.

I wonder if Joseph Ivimey might mention it in his "A History of the English Baptists"? I have a copy but haven't read it yet.

amity said...

These websites are a pretty good way to spend an evening, Robert.

amity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The [i]Bye-Paths[/i] article does an adequate job in outlining the controvery. Marlow, it seems, was worried about such singing being unseemly.

In addition, he said that:

1. Such unified singing was not practiced in the Old Testament.

2. Primitive churches did not have preset songs but were instead given to the minister "by an extraordinary Inspiration of the Holy Ghost..."

3. The Primitive model was that of a solo music: "by a single Person, with a single Voice."

4. Women's singing is in violation of Paul's admonition for women to be silent in the church.

The second point, I suggest, is a reaction against the liturgical services of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England and expresses a fear that "rote" will replace true worship.

It was not an uncommon concern. John Smyth was opposed to reading even the Bible during worship "Because no example of the Scripture can be shewed of any man ordinary or extraordinary that at or after the day of Pentecost vsed a book in praying, prophesying & singing Psalmes ..."