Puritans and secular music

Discussion in 'Music' started by monoergon, Dec 12, 2015.

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  1. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    1. What was the understanding and position of the puritans regarding secular music?

    2. Does anyone have recommendations of puritan books on this issue?
  2. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Music was categorized rather differently in those days, but it will still be possible to examine some of their own categories and compare to ours. Much classical music - especially instrumental - they would have regarded as lawful in itself. Yet even so they recommended great care and moderation in the use of recreations. A recreation was not to take up too much time and was to be performed with an eye toward reinvigorating mind and body for labor. On the Lord's day they opposed recreations altogether.

    As for opera, they generally opposed it due to its common lasciviousness and their general opposition to drama and stage-plays. "Lascivious songs" are prohibited under the Seventh Commandment in the Larger Catechism.

    I am not aware of a specific book focusing on music, but any of their Christian Directories or life manuals will lay out their general views on recreation. I am fond of Henry Scudder's The Christian's Daily Walk and Lewis Bayly's The Practice of Piety. William Prynne's Histriomastix is the definitive Puritan treatment of stage-plays, which would cover opera and probably touches on lascivious music in general.
  3. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I recommend this: The Puritans and Music in England and New England: A Contribution to the Cultural History of the Two Nations by Percy A. Scholes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934).

    Scholes (1877-1958) will give you a fair history of music as it relates to the Puritans. This book, by the way, was one of the first to start to clear away the unfair and misleading caricatures regarding the Puritans.
  4. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I forgot to add two things. First, the Puritans certainly would have opposed the vast majority of modern secular music due to its pervasive worldliness, vanity, and immorality. They would have abhorred modern Christian music. Secondly, as all things were to be done to the glory of God but worship to be limited to the Lord's revealed will, they would have prefered music that is not intended for worship but nevertheless is consistent in content with true religion.
  5. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you for the sources and information! They are truly helpful :book2:
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Some info about the New England Puritans:

    Chase, Gilbert (1955). America's Music: from the Pilgrims to the Present. McGraw-Hill.


    The Truth about the New England Puritans and Music.....they didn't really hate it says this paper:
  7. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    What is secular music?

    Music written by the unconverted?

    Music on creational and providential themes, rather than redemptive themes, written by the converted and unconverted?

    How do you tell if a piece of music - without lyrics - is on a redemptive theme vis-a-vis a creational or providential theme, or that it is written by the converted or the unconverted?
  8. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    Or what is a Christian concert? :)
  9. Toasty

    Toasty Puritan Board Sophomore

    Did the Puritans listen to classical music?
  10. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, but they just called it "music".

  11. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    What we think of as one genre ("classical music") is really a whole host of different things jumbled together. There is probably more variety in "classical music" than exists across the other genres combined.
  12. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    William Orme, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Religious Connexions of John Owen, D.D., p. 12:

  13. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Thomas Watson, 'Christian on the Mount,' in Sermons, 247-248:

  14. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Even back then there would have been a distinction between what was played at court or in the concert halls and what was played on the street or in the tavern. England, Scotland, and Ireland, but especially Wales, have long folk traditions. It does seem that the Puritans would have been somewhat acquainted with the folk traditions, as psalm tunes have tended to draw heavily from folk music for singability.
  15. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I think I read somewhere their fav genre of music was heavy metal :wink:
  16. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    New Model Army was the favourite band of some later English independent Puritans. :p

    Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
  17. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    I was basically thinking about music that does not contain lyrics that worship God, and the use of such music by the puritans.
    I was hoping to learn something that could help me with this issue:

    How much time during the week should a Christian spend hearing music that does worship God compared to music that doesn't worship God?

    Is it a sign that God is not in the center of a Christian's musical worship life if he/she listens to secular music six days a week, but only desires to worship God with music once a week?
  18. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I would think it would be where the Spirit leads. Reverend Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions Beethoven, among others, in his sermons. That in the context of comparing Paul's great epistles to symphonies with an overture encapsulating what would follow. I suppose he listened to what we call classical music and perhaps felt it was a gift from God.

    Though I used to enjoy Led Zeppelin and the Doors I would not enjoy them now. I consider reading secular literature, novels and the like a waste of time, and perhaps a bad influence. Reading the Bible, and books that help me understand it are a better use of my time. I would say the same goes for music, and even moreso for television and films. OTOH, I am 67 and wasted much time already. I have to husband whatever remains to put it to good use.
  19. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Anything good can take up so much heart or time that it can become an idol. The same with e.g. music or the visual arts, or whatever.

    Of course if your job as part of the Creation Mandate is to be e.g. a musician or painter, it may not be idolatry to spend a lot of time on these things, just your job.

    E.g. God has created the beautiful sea. It is not forbidden to the Christian to paint it or write music that expresses its moods, but anything good can be an idol, even your wife, your family or your job.
  20. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Might have been me....I am a prog. metal guy though. I have been watching this thread carefully. Now someone who likes today's pop is someone we should be careful of! :p
  21. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    It's good to know that. In what book/journal does Martyn Lloyd-Jones mention that?
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015
  22. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    The puritans had a great love of beauty, and I suspect this would have guided their tastes in music. It is quite unlikely, outside of worship, that they would have made a distinction between secular and nonsecular music -- it either glorified God or it didn't. Keep in mind that music would have been performed, or sung over a pint. It would have been either folk or baroque. Many of the innovations we consider classical wouldn't have come until later. Given the amount of work required of all but a tiny fraction of the population, any form of music beyond whistling or humming would have been quite a treat.
  23. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    The question is in which of the hundreds of published volumes of his sermons/lectures did he mention that ? Took me a shorter time than I thought it would. Volume one of his sermons on The Epistle To The Ephesians, God's Ultimate Purpose. The Baker edition on page 36 preaching on Ephesians 1:2 'Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.' ;

    He continues in the next paragraph but I have tendinitis in my right forearm and typing for any length of time is painful. You may listen to this particular sermon, and thousands more, on MLJtrust.org . Titled 'Grace; Peace; Glory (Volume 1 — #4003) Beginning at 6:30 into the sermon he expounds on this analogy in more depth than in the text I've copied exactly from the written sermon published in the book. http://www.mljtrust.org/collections/book-of-ephesians/

    I'm pretty sure I've read, or heard, MLJ use this analogy in other sermons, but I cannot call to mind where I may have seen or heard it.:detective:
  24. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I don't have Iain Murray's biography to hand, but I seem to recall him mentioning that Lloyd-Jones didn't much enjoy Bach. Otherwise, he had a long enthusiasm for classical music which didn't dissipate until close to his death. When somebody is talented and well-rounded they are able to take an intelligent interest in many things.

    The Doctor also talks about someone expressing surprise that Karl Barth would listen to Mozart - but Lloyd-Jones understood that, because Mozart made Barth happy and put him in a mood to work.

    There seems to have been a fair bit of amateur playing of music in London in the 1660s, but naturally with the expense of music teachers and purchasing scores the well-to-do were better situated to be able to enjoy that sort of thing.
  25. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Jimmy for taking the time to search for the sources :D
  26. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Not only did Barth enjoy Mozart, but he wrote a book about him.

    That's a shame. Bach has had a profound impact on church music. His arranngements of German hymn tunes are still the standard for many of them.
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