Binding a person’s conscience

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by earl40, Aug 15, 2019.

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  1. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Does requiring a person to do something that is commanded in scripture binding the conscience? I ask because if a person wishes to not sing Psalms during worship, how far should an elder go in trying to have the person sing Psalms? Should the elder try to only encourage them to sing? I personally think the last option is proper. :)

    In light of the above what exactly is "binding the conscience"? Just by the word "binding" it seems more than simply prodding to do something commanded in the bible.
  2. kodos

    kodos Puritan Board Junior

    Good question. I would be of like mind with you -- I would encourage them to sing and keep working with them over time.

    Of course, WCF 20 is the go-to chapter for this. If a man refused to sing the psalms, I would be puzzled by that. I don't think I've ever run into a Protestant who refused to sing the psalms (I've had RCC visitors to our congregation brought by their families who wouldn't sing).

    Would I force anyone to put words into their mouths that they cannot utter in good conscience to God? By no means! It pictures a kind of spiritual violence.

    At one former church, one lady was almost in tears because she had to recite the Apostles Creed and couldn't bear to say, "he descended into hell". We must be very careful with souls, especially when we make them say or sing something.

    Paragraph 3 is a helpful corrective to abuses of "liberty of conscience" in WCF 20 as well.

    WCF 20:
    II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

    III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practise any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty; which is, that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
  3. Tom Hart

    Tom Hart Puritan Board Senior

    No, I think.
    I struggle to envision this situation ever actually arising.

    If a person, for whatever reason, objected to singing psalms, there are plenty of hymn-singing churches around.

    Moreover, how would it be known that he refused to sing psalms? The elders are not policing the congegants' singing, are they? Has he made a public fuss? Then there might be a general disciplinary issue.

    Maybe I'm overthinking this, but it's not making a lot of sense to me.
  4. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Senior

    "Binding the conscience" is to enjoin one to the performance of a duty. The question of weather one's conscience is rightly bound relates more directly to what the duty in question is and whether it is indeed a "duty" according to God's Word.

    Binding the conscience to the performance of what God has commanded is good and right. Binding in some matter where God has left if free is a sinful usurpation of his prerogative.

    As to the public worship of God, Christ's ministers must see to it that they bid the people of God perform nothing but what God's word has positively commanded. For in their bidding the congregation to the observance or performance of anything in worship, they do, in a real sense, bind their consciences.

    As to ministers who bid their congregations sing uninspired hymns, it is a matter that touches more directly on the interpretation of those texts which enjoin the singing of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) and what the performance of that duty entails.

    For those who are convinced the phrase includes forms of praise composed by men, it is evident they bid their congregations to the performance of something they believe God has positively commanded.

    Those convinced otherwise ought not to impugn their brethren's motives or charge them with a sinful disregard for God's word or presumption but rather endeavor, inasmuch as they can, to walk in love and charity towards them with all humility.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
  5. Susan777

    Susan777 Puritan Board Freshman

    Just curious if that would include NCT churches?
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Christians can be Christians and still have differing views on secondary issues. We can gently bypass those issues for the central cause of Christ and need not always focus on our smaller point of difference. If a guy wants to or doesn't want to sing psalms but is otherwise a true Christian, why not try to live at peace with him and not make it a sticking point?
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  7. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    If I were an elder I would be concerned about the sin of not singing Psalms. I am not an elder, though EP. My elders not doubt think I am a sticking point in the side when I have a closed mouth during hymn singing. :)
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Not singing the psalms is a sin?
  9. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    "...but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs... (Eph. 5:18b, 19a)

    In this sense at least I would say yes, seeing it is given in the imperative.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    So a psalm must be sung once per service? Occasional, or only? Psalms sometimes, hymns sometimes, and spiritual songs sometimes. If it were only psalms then why add the other two descriptors of hymns and spiritual songs?
  11. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    See latest EP threads. More detail there. Lotsa recent back and forth.
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I was just reading something earlier that is too often forgotten in conservative, confessional circles:

    That is the function of the ambassadors. God sets people apart, he calls them, he sends them, in order to convey as best they can, depending on his Spirit, the truth of his Word. That’s why the Bible is open in front of us. You don’t have to believe if you don’t see it in the Bible. That is something that even in the most orthodox of churches we have to remember— what’s said in the pulpit has to be tested by the Bible.

    Hugh M. Cartwright, With An Everlasting Love: Selected Sermons of Rev Hugh M Cartwright (Stornoway, Reformation Press, Kindle edition, 2015), p. 160.
  13. Phil D.

    Phil D. Puritan Board Junior

    Just as your question was very broad, I purposely avoided suggesting details of how this is to be done. But it is a command and thus indeed to be done in some fashion.
  14. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Someone is sinning. :) Of course love covers a multitude if sin. One thing I know is that we ought to sing all the Psalms, and what is interesting I believe the same is not true of hymns.
  15. De Jager

    De Jager Puritan Board Freshman

    I was thinking of this today. So when we look at a scripture like "whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven..etc.", that doesn't literally mean everything but only what is in accord with God's word??
  16. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Major premise: The singing of psalms is commanded in scripture.

    Minor premise: Disobedience to God's commands is sinful.

    Conclusion: The failure to sing psalms is sinful disobedience.
  17. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    This ascription of a Godlike power to require a blind obedience unto their commands, to be yielded without any exercise or debate of reason, is that which it is a marvel how it is endured among mankind, especially since they have had such experience of its fruits and effects.

    John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. With Preliminary Exercitations, ed. W. H. Goold (1684; 7 vols, Edinburgh: Johnston and Hunter, 1855), 7: 108-09.
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