Following on from the last post, here are some more quotations from John Owen in response to Mark Jones trying to use Owen against exclusive psalmody. All taken from the Goold (incidentally a theological professor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland) edition of Owen’s Works.
God’s Words v Man’s Words
“Unto this end there is a more glorious power and efficacy in one epistle, one psalm, one chapter, than in all the writings of men, though they have their use also. He that hath not experience hereof is a stranger unto the power of God in the Scripture”. iv, 190.
On the introduction of hymns (context is the imposition of set forms of prayer but hymns are still listed as a ‘Trojan horse’).
“Whatever forms of prayer were given out unto the use of the church by divine authority and inspiration, as the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalms or Prayers of David, they are to have their everlasting use therein, according unto what they were designed unto. And be their end and use what it will, they can give no more warranty for human compositions unto the same end, and the injunction of their use, than for other human writings to be added unto the Scripture…So the orthodox and the Arians composed prayers, hymns, and doxologies, the one against the other, inserting in them passages confirming their own profession and condemning that of their adversaries. Now, however this invention might be approved whilst it kept within bounds, yet it proved the Trojan horse that brought in all evils into the city of God in its belly.”
…Had the churches of Christ been left unto their primitive liberty under the enjoined duties of reading and expounding the Scripture, of singing psalms unto the praise of God, of the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and of diligent preaching the word, all of them with prayer, according unto the abilities and spiritual gifts of them who did preside in them, as it is evident that they were for some ages, it is impossible for any man to imagine what evils would have ensued thereon that might be of any consideration, in comparison of those enormous mischiefs which followed on the contrary practice”. iv, 240-6
On the elements of worship
“Offering prayers and praises to God in the name of Jesus Christ, reading the holy Scripture and expounding of it, singing of psalms to God, preaching of the word, with the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, in a religious observation of the Lord’s day unto these ends, all according as God doth enable them by his Spirit, is the sum and substance of the worship of the catholic church, wherein all Christians are agreed. These things the Scripture doth prescribe, and these things the church in all ages hath observed. All differences about this worship, which have filled the world with inhuman contentions, arose from men’s arbitrary addition of forms, rites, modes, ceremonies, languages, cringings, adorations, which they would have observed in it; whereof the Scripture is silent and primitive antiquity utterly ignorant. And it may be it will be one day understood, that the due observance of this catholic worship, according as God enableth any thereunto (leaving others at liberty to use such helps unto their devotion as they shall think meet), is the only communion of worship in the church which the Scripture requires, or which is possible to be attained. About the imposition of other things, there ever were, since they were, and ever will be, endless contentions”. xvi, 218-9.
Elements v Circumstances of Worship
Element: “Q. 17. Which are the principal institutions of the gospel to be observed in the worship of God?
A. The calling, gathering, and settling of churches, with their officers, as the seat and subject of all other solemn instituted worship; prayer, with thanksgiving; singing of psalms; preaching the word; 5administration of the sacraments of baptism and the supper of the Lord; discipline and rule of the church collected and settled” xiv, 477
(From Owen’s Short Catechism – proof texts for the ‘singing of psalms’ are Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 – very similar to WCF, which also has James 5:13).
Circumstance: “And it is merely from a spirit of contention that some call on us or others to produce express testimony or institution for every circumstance in the practice of religious duties in the church, and on a supposed failure herein, do conclude that they have power themselves to institute and ordain such ceremonies as they think meet, under a pretence of their being circumstances of worship; for as the directive light of nature is sufficient to guide us in these things, so the obligation of the church unto it makes all stated additions to be useless, as on other accounts they are noxious. Such things as these are:…translations and tunes of psalms in singing” xiv, 232.
What about music?
“And this proved the great means of the apostasy of the Christian church also: for, to maintain some appearance of spiritual affections, men introduced carnal incitations of them into evangelical worship, such as singing, with music and pompous ceremonies; for they find such things needful to reconcile the worship of God unto their minds and affections, and through them they appear to have great delight therein.
… Hence Austin [Augustine] tells us that singing in the church was laid aside by Athanasius at Alexandria; not the people’s singing of psalms, but a kind of singing in the reading of the Scripture and some offices of worship, which began then to be introduced in the church. And the reason he gave why he did it was, that the modulation of the voice and musical tune might not divert the minds of men from that spiritual affection which is required of them in sacred duties”. vii, 424-5
The Psalms ‘immediately inspired’ and appointed for use in church
“The argument will not hold, so far as it is usually extended at least: “God himself hath prescribed some forms of prayer, to be used by some persons on some occasions; therefore, men may invent, yea, and prescribe those that shall be for common and constant use.” He who forbade all images, or all use of them, in sacred things, appointed the making of the cherubims in the tabernacle and temple.
David’s Psalms were given out by immediate inspiration, and were most of them mystical and prophetical, appointed to be used in the church, as all other Scriptures, only some of them in a certain manner, namely, of singing, and that manner also was determined by divine appointment.” iv, 349
Finally, in response to Jones’ implication that hymns have an advantage because a Jew or Mormon would have problems with them that they wouldn’t have a psalm – Owen shows clearly that the Jew or Mormon singing a psalm is still singing about Christ whether they realise it or not!
Owen argues for the pre-eternity of Christ from Psalm 2
“3. It cannot be proved that these words are spoken at all of David so much as typically, nor any thing else in that psalm from verse 7 to the end; yea, the contrary is evident from every verse following, especially the 12th, where kings and rulers are called to worship him of whom he speaks, and threatened with destruction if they do not; and they are pronounced blessed who put their trust in him; which cannot be spoken of David.” xii, 241.
We have communion with each person of the Trinity when we sing psalms
“There is no act, part, or duty of gospel worship, wherein the worshippers have not this distinct communion with each person in the blessed Trinity.” ix, 57.