"Private worship" Relation to "Specific Worship"

Discussion in 'A capella Exclusive Psalmody' started by Afterthought, Feb 25, 2014.

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  1. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    Because I didn't want to throw the thread too much more off topic (http://www.puritanboard.com/f124/ep-violation-rpw-82386/#post1036003), I will reply here. To expound on the thread topic, the question is: How do "specific worship" and "private worship" relate? The rest of the thread topic's exposition can be seen in the following interchange, in which an historical question is asked and an understanding of the relation between the two expressed.

    It was said:
    That's quite the presumption! Can you demonstrate that they intended them for what we call "specific acts of worship"? John Brown relegates their use to "religious recreation", which seems to me to be either (1) what we refer to as "generic worship" or (2) meditation. I don't know whether meditation is entirely an act of generic worship--and though I am unsure, I have doubts about it being called a "specific act" of worship--but it is definitely an act of religious devotion and so both closer to "worship" in the proper sense of the term and distinct from "doing all to the glory of God." Perhaps "meditation," "religious recreation," and "religious conference" are those vague categories that you have referred to in the past as "informal worship" or worship that is neither specific nor generic?

    I don't pretend to understand entirely how these categories fit together, but if my understanding is right, I think I'm beginning to see why "private worship" is a vague term; it allows for equivocation between actions and set times in which certain actions occur, possibly along with a redefinition of "worship." If my understanding is correct, the general rule (the Second Commandment) requires that specific acts of devotion must be offered to God strictly according to His will. In a time set aside for "private worship," those specific acts of devotion must be offered only according to God's will, but during a time of "private worship," other actions (that are not specific acts of worship) may also be done, e.g., catechizing, or singing other songs, whether for instruction or for meditation. Of course, since meditation is not bound by time or place, though one can have a set time for it too, singing other songs can also take place outside of a time set for "private worship." But then, those other actions, even those specific acts of devotion, are not bound to those times set aside for "private worship" either (though unlike meditation, some of them necessarily require setting aside a time to do them, which set-aside-time one may label "private worship", I suppose), since one's time isn't regulated but done according to liberty of conscience and a normative principle. And then, as a consequence of this view, whether one intends to worship God by something as a specific act of worship depends on the intention, not necessarily the action itself. Such is my understanding of "private worship" and its relation to "specific worship."

    Edit: Some previous threads on this subject: http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/second-commandment-applicability-private-worship-76824/
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  2. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Well, David danced with so little on that his wife was shocked. But who would argue that this was not heart-felt worship outside the typical, public context? There's plenty to guide us in our approach to the Lord in private worship, but the scriptures show differences between what was established for the tabernacle/temple and what individuals did in devotion to the Lord.
  3. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    My apologies if I did not make the thread clear; I have linked to a few previous threads to hopefully clarify that I am trying to look at a technical relationship. Anyway, I'm not sure of the applicability of that passage to the thread because I have too many questions concerning the passage to draw any definite conclusions (e.g., Was the dancing commanded by God? Was the worship done public worship? Was the whole event unique such that it isn't fair to conclude things concerning the principle of worship from the unique activities?). Of course, the whole event was done in connection with the tabernacle/temple though it was not a regularly established service.

    But if it is intended to be an example of "private worship" and normative in that way for determining "private worship" practices, it would seem to me the passage doesn't require one to understand it as "worship" in the proper sense of the term or as a specific act of devotion. Rather, it would be an example of "generic worship" ("doing all to the glory of God"), or as you put it better, what was done "in devotion to the Lord." Not as something specifically offered up in worship to God but rather a posture assumed outside of public worship (the dancing wasn't offered up as worship to God but was accidental to the worship of God in David's heart), even, perhaps, outside of a time of stated "private worship", i.e., the action was spontaneous. Of course, this view supposes God didn't command the dancing or that the event wasn't a public time of worship but was more like a national celebration with a religious event (which religious event was regulated by God, as is clear); hence the conclusion is still somewhat indefinite. However, understanding the action as outlined in this paragraph, it would seem to confirm the view I proposed in the OP that specific actions of devotion must be done in a particular way but other actions may be done as well.

    From thinking on the above, I wonder if "devotion" is a broader term than "worship" and requires distinguishing them?
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  4. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    To be honest with you Austin, I'd like to know more of the divines' reasoning on this as well, but from the Preface, they didn't condemn the composition or singing of other "spiritual" songs than the Psalms. That would be counter-intuitive to some of us EPers who think that, to be consistent, other "spiritual" songs than the Psalms should be completely eschewed.

    There are different spheres of worship which are all covered by the regulative principle in slightly different ways E.g. The Lord's Supper cannot be celebrated individually or in private, nor would you want the Session, or pastor, imposing songs on the congregation which may infringe on some of their consciences, because they don't have the highest warrant, but nor would you want to infringe on your brother's conscience, if he is "strong", by stopping him from singing "Amazing Grace" in his own house. In accordance with Romans 14, he might not want to sing it in front of you out of charity if you are "weak" and believe it is a sin to sing "Amazing Grace".

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    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  5. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think you are mixing up me and Raymond, though, to be honest, I regard it an honor.
  6. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    My mistake.

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  7. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    Well thanks, Austin! The feeling is mutual: I myself consider it an honor to be confused with you.

    It is indeed. I have gone back and forth on this in the past. But of course, the point I was making in the OP was whether it was considered what we call "specific worship" to sing these other songs, or whether it was considered some other category (like "religious recreation," or "meditation"). It would be helpful to know their reasoning on this.

    I agree with your conclusions, but it isn't just conscience, is it? The Second Commandment prohibits us from worshipping God in a way that has not been appointed, and undoubtedly, we would not consider "worshipping" God by an image (or any other way not appointed in His word) to be considered acceptable just because someone can do it with a subjectively clear conscience. The key still seems to me to be understanding what "worship" consists of, so that speaking of different "spheres of worship" doesn't really work well as a clear concept.

    How does liberty of conscience fit in, especially when one attaches it to public worship? If I were to expand on the view I presented in the OP, it would seem to me that in public worship, all are there at God's command to perform actions of worship, and they perform those actions at the ministerial authority of those whom God has set in place to facilitate these services. Hence, there needs to be that high warrant for any action done in the service. Outside of private worship, there is no authority to bind the conscience except oneself, but the moral law of God still applies, namely, the Second Commandment. So individuals and families and gatherings of many individuals will need to take into consideration the Second Commandment. But since their gatherings are not necessarily to entirely perform actions of worship, other actions can be incorporated according to their understanding of the Second Commandment. That is where questions about the weak and the strong may occur; because not all may be convinced some actions are acceptable to perform alongside those actions of specific worship, or not all may be convinced that the Second Commandment allows for certain specific actions of worship occur, or some may stumble at the notion of performing some action (e.g., as you noted, some may not be able to separate singing in meditation or for religious recreation from specific worship).

    I realize the above is a bit fuzzy in its thought, but I guess it is at least some attempt to try to bring all these considerations together.
  8. Free Christian

    Free Christian Puritan Board Sophomore

    This interests me. So are there some who think that singing any song about God other than Psalms is a sin? I don't.
  9. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Senior

    I suppose there are people who believe all kinds of things about all sorts of topics to one degree or another. To answer the question though: yes, there are some who think that (albeit, with some qualifications, I'm sure). However, it is safe to say that none in this thread are advocating that position.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2014
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