One of our essential beliefs is that of the spirituality of the church, that is, that the church of Christ is composed exclusively of spiritual or regenerated persons. As God is a spirit, and those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, we have always believed that the real worship of God was performed only by believers. To us, worship, either in public or private, is the offering up to God of holy and devout affections. Hence we believe that no one can be a minister of the sanctuary, unless he be a devout and regenerate man. Hence we believe that to sing the praises of God without really lifting up the heart to him, is in no sense Christian worship, and is, in fact, no acceptable service. Hence our belief always has been that singing is a part of worship which belongs, in a peculiar manner, to the disciples of the Saviour. In this service they, with one voice, utter the confessions of penitence, the triumphs of faith, the confidence of hope, and bow down together with one feeling of holy adoration. Hence our singing was a service of the church, in which others united with them only in so far as they could sympathize with them in the sentiments which they uttered. These are, if I mistake not, our beliefs on this subject, and to it our practice, until lately, conformed. A member of the church selected the tunes, led the singing, and the whole church, and the devout portion of the congregation, united with him in this part of religious worship. Their design was to make melody in their hearts to the Lord.
For these reasons, Baptists formerly were universally opposed to the introduction of musical instruments into the house of God. They asked, "How can senseless things speak the praises of God?"... the singing in Baptist churches was formerly what is now denominated congregational. We had neither choirs nor organs. Nothing but the voices of worshipers was heard in hymning the praises of God, and in this service every devout worshiper was expected to unite... I do not pretend that in this singing there was any artistic excellence. This is never needed in popular music, or that music which is intended to move a multitude of people...The tunes employed were perfectly adapted to religious sentiment, and blended the whole audience in one consciousness of solemn worship. To use the language of Burns -- surely a competent authority -- "They chant their artless notes in simple guise, They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim: Perhaps Dundee's wild warbling notes arise, Or plaintive Martyrs, worthy of the name; Or noble Elgin fans the heavenward flame, The sweetest far of Scotia's holy lays. Compared with these, Italian trills are tame; The tickled ears no heartfelt raptures raise, No unison have they with our Creator's praise."
Men of piety have begun to feel that it is wicked to substitute a mere musical diversion for the solemn worship of God. Men of correct taste, at least, acknowledge that congregational singing, and solemn and devout music, are alone appropriate to the service of the sanctuary. Whenever a return to the old customs has been tried, it has met with unexpected success. May the reform be universal throughout our Baptist churches.
-- Selected from Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches, by Francis Wayland, 1857