2 Timothy 2:24-25
I'm going to sleep on this one and think about it for a while.
Let's see if we can die this discussion with a nice Presbyterian blue colour.Originally posted by Me Died Blue
This seems to be one of the (if not the) key differences in how Chris and Matthew are approaching and defining things versus how you, Dan and myself are. In other words, as Dan noted, I don't think they would agree with the above statement. Furthermore, under that paradigm, I must admit the "necessary" view doesn't seem as unreasonable, comparatively speaking. That is because the posture and hearing themselves would be the circumstances, and they certainly are necessary, since people must hear the sermon, and there is by definition some posture, be it sitting or standing. Thus, there could consistently be liberty with the particulars of those circumstances (e.g. microphone, sound-bouncing walls, chairs, pews, standing, etc., none of which are themselves necessary), but not with those two circumstances themselves (which are necessary).Originally posted by SemperFideles
If time and place are circumstances then the subcategories of time and place are still circumstances.
Mmmh. Pretty. I was going to make the suggestion that perhaps the general topic of "circumstances of worship" should be split off to its own thread and maybe we could accumulate some of the background material on it that Chris is seeking (I think Owen has some material but I don't have him). Maybe someone can split the approriate posts off to start that. I really think this needs addressing out of the context of the specific subject of this thread. For what it's worth.Originally posted by armourbearer
Let's see if we can die this discussion with a nice Presbyterian blue colour.
John L. Girardeau, The Discretionary Power of the Church:[Jeremiah] Burroughs [Gospel Worship] adopts the standard Puritan distinction of elements and circumstances of worship, terming the latter "natural and Civil helps." "It is true that there are some thing in the Worship of God that natural and Civil helps, and there we need not have any Command: As for instance; when we come to worship God the congregation meets, they must have a convenient place to keep the Air and weather from them: now this is but a natural help, and so far as I use the place of worship at a natural help, I need have no Command." A further important distinction is made between those natural circumstances just described and significant circumstances or ceremonies which require a warrant. Further developing the example of a place of worship, Burroughs writes: "But if I will put any thing in a Place beyond what it hath in its own nature, there I must look for a Command. For if I account one place more Holy than another; or to think that God should accept of worship in one place rather than in another: this is to raise it above what it is in its own Nature. So that when any Creature is raised in a Religious way above what it hath in it by Nature: If I have not Scripture to warrant me I am therein Superstitious. It's a very useful rule for to help you: If any Creature that you make any use of in a way of Religion beyond what it hath in its own Nature, if you have not some warrant from the Word of God (whatsoever specious shew there may be in it) it is superstition." (Ibid.)
John L. Girardeau, Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of God:There is a respect in which the church has discretionary power in this department, but it is one which does not in the slightest degree affect the nature and organization of her government. It lies not in the sphere of the supernatural, but altogether in that of the natural. The Westminster Confession very precisely defines the extent of this discretion. It is restricted to "some circumstances concerning the government of the church common to human actions and societies." It is designed to speak more particularly of this "doctrine of circumstances" under the topic still remaining -- that of worship -- and it is here dismissed with a single remark. It is clear that circumstances which are common to human actions cannot be anything which is peculiar to church actions, and those which are common to human societies cannot be anything distinctive of the church as a certain kind of society. They are circumstances belonging to the temporal sphere -- time, place, decorum, and the natural methods of discharging business which are necessities to all societies. They do not appertain to the kind of government which the church ought to have, not the mode in which it is to be disposed.
This, then, is the extent of the discretionary power of the church in the sphere of government: She is to add nothing to, to take nothing from, what Christ has commanded in the Scriptures. All her needs are there provided for. She must have a divine warrant for every element of her polity and every distinctive function of government. Her laws are given; her officers are given; and the mode in which those laws shall be administered, and those officers shall act, is given. She can, consequently, make no laws -- her power is limited to declaring and applying Christ's laws; she can create no offices -- her power is expressed in electing the persons to fill those that Christ has appointed; she can institute no new mode of government -- her sole power lies in employing that which Christ has ordained. Her power and her duty alike are summed up in absolute conformity to the Written Word.
The public worship of the church, in a wide sense, includes the reading of the Scriptures, preaching, prayer, the singing of praise, the administration of the sacraments, contribution of our substance to the service of God, and the pronunciation of the benediction. In a stricter sense, its elements are prayer and singing. It will not be disputed that these modes of worship are revealed by Christ in His Word. If so, the church has no discretionary power to introduce any others or to change in any respect those which Christ has warranted. The theory that whatsoever is not expressly forbidden in the Word the church may do, involves the monstrous assumption, that in matters of positive institution uninspired wisdom is of co-ordinate authority with the revealed will of God. The power that adds to or abridges them, that changes or modifies them, must either be equal to the original appointing power, or be shown to be delegated from it. Neither of these positions rests upon a shadow of proof from the Scriptures. But whatever others may think on this subject, our doctrine is definitely settled. The Westminster Confession distinctly enounces the principle that whatsoever, in connection with church-worship, is not commanded, either expressly or implicitly, is forbidden. Its language is: "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures." This is the doctrine of our own Constitution, our accepted exposition of the Written Word -- that only what Christ has commanded can the church enforce or permit; that what He has not commanded is not allowable; that the only sphere in which the church possesses discretionary power is that of commanded things, within which she may act, beyond which she is not at liberty to go one inch.
But, in this sphere of commanded things, what is the extent of her discretionary power? This is a question which is to us, as a church, one of present, practical import. It is one of the points at which we are in especial danger of being caught off our guard -- this is a gate through which the Trojan horse is sought to be introduced into our holy city. It is a real, living issue, What power has the church within the sacred, the divinely-scored circle of commanded things -- of revealed duties? This being the question, the answer, for us, is most precisely given in our Confession of Faith. After stating the mighty principle of the limitation of power within the things prescribed in Scripture, it proceeds to say: "There are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and the government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed." Since then, by her Constitution, the charter which defines her rights, limits her powers and prescribes her duties, the discretion of our church is astricted to "some circumstances concerning the worship of God common to human actions and societies," it is a question of the utmost consequence, What is the nature of these circumstances? Dr. Thornwell puts the case so clearly, and yet so concisely, that we quote a portion of his words in answer to this very question: "Circumstances are those concomitants of an action without which it either cannot be done at all, or cannot be done with decency and decorum. Public worship, for example, requires public assemblies, and in public assemblies people must appear in some costume and assume some posture . . . . Public assemblies, moreover, cannot be held without fixing the time and place of meeting: these are circumstances which the church is at liberty to regulate . . . . We must distinguish between those circumstances which attend actions as actions -- that is, without which the actions cannot be -- and those circumstances which, though not essential, are added as appendages. These last do not fall within the jurisdiction of the church. She has no right to appoint them. They are circumstances in the sense that they do not belong to the substance of the act. They are not circumstances in the sense that they so surround it that they cannot be separated from it. A liturgy is a circumstance of this kind . . . . In public worship, indeed in all commanded external actions, there are two elements -- a fixed and a variable. The fixed element, involving the essence of the thing, is beyond the discretion of the church. The variable, involving only the circumstances of the action, its separable accidents, may be changed, modified or altered, according to the exigencies of the case." Such is the doctrine of one who was a profound and philosophical thinker, a man deeply taught of the Spirit, and a master of the Presbyterian system, the doctrine of Calvin and Owen, of Cunningham and Breckinridge, the doctrine of the Reformed Church of France, of the Puritans of England, and of the Church of Scotland, the doctrine to which, by the grace of God, the practice of the Free Church of Scotland and of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, in an age of growing laxity, still continues to be conformed.
There are three criteria by which the kind of circumstances attending worship which fall under the discretionary power of the church may be determined: first, they are not qualities or modes of the acts of worship; they are extraneous to them as a certain kind of actions; secondly, they are common to the acts of all societies, and, therefore, not peculiar to the acts of the church as a particular sort of society -- they are not characteristic and distinctive of her acts and predicable of them alone; and thirdly, they are conditions necessary to the performance of the acts of worship -- without them the acts of this society could not be done, as without them the acts of no society could be done.
It is submitted, with all modesty, that this line of argument ought to be conclusive with Presbyterians, at least, against ranking instrumental music in public worship as one of the circumstances common to human actions and societies which fall under the discretion of the church. Consequently, to justify it, it must be proved to be one of those directly commanded things which the apostles taught the church to observe. To take that ground is to contradict the unbroken evidence of history from the apostolic age until the middle of the thirteenth century. The force of this consideration lies here: there having been a tendency in the church from the earliest age to depart from the simple institutions of the Gospel, it is utterly unaccountable that she should have become more simple in her worship after the apostles fell asleep than she was under their personal teaching. It is clear as day, the human heart being what it is, that if the apostolic churches had been accustomed to this mode of worship it never would have been eradicated. The natural tastes of men all forbid the supposition. The elimination of instrumental music from the worship of Christ's house by the best churches of the Reformation, by the English Puritans and the Church of Scotland, was the result of an effort to purify the church and to restore her to what they conceived to be the simplicity of apostolic practice. In this matter, we have relapsed from their reformed position. But if the use of instrumental music in the New Testament Church be not either directly commanded in Scripture, or indirectly as one of the circumstances common to human actions and societies and lying within the sphere of commanded things, it only remains to consider it a clear, substantive addition to the divinely revealed rule of faith and duty in the Written Word; and then it is prohibited. The issue is: Either we must prove that it is one of the things expressly or implicitly commanded by Christ, or admit that it is forbidden. The latter alternative is the doctrine of our Standards; and, if so, the inference as to what our practice ought to be is too apparent to be pressed.
[Edited on 7-11-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]2. Instrumental music is excluded from the public worship of God´s house by the declarations of the Confession of Faith and the Directory for Worship concerning singing.
The Confession of Faith, in enumerating the "parts of the ordinary religious worship of God," specifics "singing of psalms with grace in the heart." The Directory for Worship thus speaks: "It is the duty of Christians to praise God by singing psalms." "The proportion of the time of public worship to be spent in singing is left to the prudence of every minister."
(1.) These provisions of the Confession of Faith and the Directory for Worship exclude instrumental music from the public worship of the church which acknowledges them as its formularies, in accordance with the legal maxim, Expressio unius est exclusio alterius: the express statement of one alternative is the exclusion of the other. If two men were supposed, upon probable grounds, to be chargeable with the same offence, the indictment of only one of them would be the exclusion of the other from the indictment. No formal naming of the person not included in the indictment is necessary. If of two acts, which might be performed under given circumstances, one only is commanded in a statute to be done, the other is excluded"”it is not commanded. And so, if of two acts which might be done under given circumstances, one only is by statute permitted, the other is excluded from the permission"”it is forbidden. To apply the principle to the case in hand: the singing of psalms or hymns and the performance of instrumental music are two distinct acts which may be done at one and the same time. The ecclesiastical law commands only one of these acts to be done in public worship. It follows that the other is excluded"”it is not commanded. But does this, it may be asked, rule out the other? May it not be done, although not commanded? The answer is to be found in the great principle, already established by scriptural proofs, that what Christ has not commanded to be observed, men have no right to introduce into the worship of his church; and those who acknowledge the ecclesiastical law which is now appealed to, as correctly representing or rather reproducing thc divine law, are bound to hold that what the ecclesiastical law does not authorize cannot be legitimately introduced into the worship of the church. We have seen that it is not true that what is not forbidden is permitted, but on the contrary, what is not commanded is forbidden. It follows that, as the law in the Presbyterian standards does authorize singing and does not authorize instrumental music, the latter is excluded. It is extra-legal, and therefore contra-legal.
(2.) This interpretation of the law in the standards is confirmed by what we know of the mind and intention of its framers in regard to this matter. Before the Westminster Assembly of Divines undertook the office of preparing a Directory for Worship, the Parliament had authoritatively adopted measures looking to the removal of organs, along with other remains of Popery, from the churches of England. On the 20th of May, 1644, the commissioners from Scotland wrote to the General Assembly of their church and made the following statement among others: "We cannot but admire the good hand of God in the great things done here already, particularly that the covenant, the foundation of the whole work, is taken, Prelacy and the whole train thereof extirpated, the service-book in many places forsaken, plain and powerful preaching set up, many colleges in Cambridge provided with such ministers as are most zealous of the best reformation, altars removed, the communion in some places given at the table with sitting, the great organs at Paul´s and Peter´s in Westminster taken down, images and many other monuments of idolatry defaced and abolished, the Chapel Royal at Whitehall purged and reformed; and all by authority, in a quiet manner, at noon-day, without tumult."  So thorough was the work of removing organs that the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" says that "at the Revolution most of the organs in England had been destroyed." 
When, therefore, the Assembly addressed itself to the task of framing a Directory for Worship, it found itself confronted by a condition of the churches of Great Britain in which the singing of psalms without instrumental accompaniment almost universally prevailed. In prescribing, consequently, the singing of psalms without making any allusion to the restoration of instrumental music, it must, in all fairness, be construed to specify the simple singing of praise as a part of public worship. The question, moreover, is settled by the consideration that had any debate occurred as to the propriety of allowing the use of instrumental music, the Scottish commissioners would have vehemently and uncompromisingly opposed that measure. But Lightfoot, who was a member of the Assembly, in his "Journal of its Proceedings"  tells us: "This morning we fell upon the Directory for singing of psalms; and, in a short time, we finished it." He says that the only point upon which the Scottish commissioners had some discussion was the reading of the Psalms line by line.
If anything were lacking to confirm these views, it would be found in what is known of the state of opinion in the Puritan party, the party represented in the Westminster Assembly, as well before as during the sessions of that body.
"Her Majesty [Elizabeth] was afraid," says Neal, "of reforming too far; she was desirous to retain images in churches, crucifixes and crosses, vocal and instrumental music, with all the old popish garments; it is not, therefore, to be wondered that, in reviewing the liturgy of King Edward, no alterations were made in favor of those who now began to be called Puritans, from their attempting a purer form of worship and discipline than had as yet been established." 
"Drs. Humphreys and Samson," says the same historian, "two heads of the Non-conformists, wrote to Zurich the following reasons against wearing the habits." After giving the reasons the writers continue: "But the dispute is not only about a cap and surplice; there are other grievances which ought to be redressed or dispensed with; as (1) music and organs in divine worship," etc. 
He further says: "They [the Puritans] disallowed of the cathedral mode of worship; of singing their prayers, and of the antiphone or chanting of the Psalms by turns, which the ecclesiastical commissioners in King Edward the Sixth´s time advised the laying aside. Nor did they approve of musical instruments, as trumpets, organs, etc., which were not in use in the church for above 1200 years after Christ." 
John Owen, the great Puritan divine, who was contemporary with the Westminster Assembly, says:  "Not only hereby the praising and blessing of God, but the use of those forms in so doing became a necessary part of the worship of God; and so was the use of organs and the like instruments of music, which respect that manner of praising him which God then required." He speaks here of the temple-service in the Jewish dispensation. This venerable servant of Christ also says:  "And he [David] speaks expressly, in 1 Chron. 23:5, of praising God with instruments of music "˜which,´ says he, "˜I made.´ He did it by the direction of the Spirit of God; otherwise he ought not to have done it; for so it is said, 1 Ch. 28:12, when he had established all the ordinances of the temple, "˜the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit.´ And verse 19, "˜All this,´ said David, "˜the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.´ It was all revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit, without which he could have introduced nothing at all into the worship of God."
From what has been said, it is evident that the provisions in the Confession of Faith and the Directory for Worship touching singing in public worship were intended to exclude the employment of instrumental music; and it follows that its use by those who accept these formularies is in violation of their constitutional law.
3. Instrumental music is doctrinally excluded from the public worship of the church by the Confession of Faith.
The passage which is appealed to in support of this position is as follows: "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man´s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing is at any time to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God and government of the church common to human actions and societies which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."
(1.) The whole preceding argument clearly proves that the Westminster Assembly could not have intended to include instrumental music in those circumstances concerning"”not in, nor of, not implicated in the nature of, but concerning"”the worship of God, the ordering of which it concedes not to be prescribed by Scripture, but to depend upon natural judgment and Christian discretion. Let us glance back at that argument. It proved: that the prescriptive will of God regulates all things pertaining to the kind of worship to be rendered him in his house; that nothing which is not commanded by him in his Word, either explicitly or implicitly, can be warrantably introduced into the public worship of his sanctuary; that man´s will, wisdom, or taste can, in this sphere, originate nothing, authorize nothing, but that human discretion is excluded, and absolute obedience to the divine authority imposed; that instrumental music was not commanded of God to be used in connection with the tabernacle during the greater part of its existence, and consequently it was not there employed; that God expressly commanded it to be used in the temple, and therefore it was employed in its services; that the temple itself, with all that was peculiar and distinctive in its worship, was typical and symbolical, and was designed to be temporary; that it did pass away at the beginning of the Christian dispensation; that instrumental music was a part of its typical elements, and has consequently shared its abolition; that instrumental music was not commanded of God to be used in connection with the synagogue, which existed contemporaneously with the temple, and was therefore not employed in its services; that the Christian church was, in its polity and worship, conformed not to the temple, but to the synagogue, as is admitted even by some distinguished Prelatists, such modifications and conditions having been added as necessarily grew out of the change of dispensations"”the accomplishment of atonement, the copious effusion of the Holy Ghost, and the evangelistic genius and office of the new economy; that instrumental music in public worship was not one of these Christian modifications or conditions; that the New Testament Scriptures exclude that kind of music, and that it was unknown in the practice of the apostolic church, as is evinced not only by the teaching of the apostles, but also by the absence of instrumental music from the church for more than a millennium.
Now, this was the way in which the Westminster divines, together with the whole Puritan party, were accustomed to argue, and in addition to this method of argument from Scripture, they also condemned instrumental music as one of those badges of Popery from which they contended that the church should be purged. To take the ground, then, that in the single clause in regard to "the circumstances concerning the worship of God . . . common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence," they meant to include instrumental music, is to maintain that in that one utterance they contradicted and subverted their whole doctrine on the subject. It would be to say that they made all their solemn contentions and cherished views upon that subject what the wise woman of Tekoah represented human life to be, "as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." The thing is preposterous. It cannot for a moment be supposed. One might, therefore, close the argument just here. Whatever the Assembly meant to include in the category of circumstances falling under the discretion of the church, it is absolutely certain that it was not intended to embrace in it instrumental music. But inasmuch as, notwithstanding this obtrusive fact, the clause in the Confession of Faith touching circumstances concerning the worship of God is unaccountably but commonly pleaded in justification of the employment of instrumental music in church services, I will endeavor to vindicate it from that abusive construction.
(2.) Let us determine, in the light of the instrument that we are interpreting, what these circumstances are.
They are expressly defined to be such as are "common to human actions and societies." It would seem needless to discuss the question. One feels that he is talking superfluously and triflingly in arguing that circumstances common to human actions are not and cannot be peculiar to church actions. It is certain that circumstances common to human societies cannot be peculiar to church societies. But these circumstances are declared to be common to human societies, to societies of all sorts"”political, philosophical, scientific, literary, mercantile, agricultural, mechanical, industrial, military, and even infidel. Time and place, costume and posture, sitting or standing, and the like, are circumstances common to all societies, and therefore pertain to the church as a society. But will it be seriously maintained that instrumental music is such a circumstance? Is it common to human societies? These questions answer themselves. As instrumental music is not a circumstance common to all societies, it is not one of the circumstances specified in the Confession of Faith. It is excluded by the terms which it uses.
It may be said that, as all human societies have the right to order the circumstances in which their peculiar acts shall be performed, the church possesses this common right, and may appoint the circumstance of instrumental music as an accompaniment to its peculiar act of singing praise. How this relieves the difficulty it is impossible to see. For the Confession defines the circumstances in question to be common to human actions, and therefore common to the actions of all human societies. But it will not be contended that the action of singing praise in the worship of God belongs to all societies as such. If that action does not belong to them, no circumstances attending it can belong to them. The community of the action infers the community of the circumstances attending it. The ground of the objection is therefore swept away; there is no such action common to all societies as the singing of praise in God´s worship, and consequently no such circumstance attending it as instrumental music. The action and the circumstance vanish together. If the action of singing praise belonged alike to the church and all societies there might be some color of plausibility in the plea that the church may determine the circumstances which attend it as done by herself, so far, at least, as the terms of this particular clause in the Confession of Faith are concerned. If, however, the action of singing praise in God´s worship is peculiar to the church as a particular kind of society, the circumstance of instrumental music as attending it cannot be common to human actions and societies. It is therefore ruled out by the language of the Confession.
This argument is conclusive, unless it can be shown that instrumental music is a circumstance necessary to the performance of the action"”singing of praise. A simple and complete answer to this is, that for a thousand years the church sang praise without instrumental accompaniment. How then can its necessity to the singing of praise be maintained? Can a circumstance be necessary to the performance of an act, when the act has been performed without it, and is now continually, Sabbath after Sabbath, performed without it? To say that instrumental music assists in the performance of the act is to shift the issue. The question is not, Is it helpful? but, Is it necessary?
To this it must be added that this particular provision of the Confession is to be interpreted in conformity with its catholic teaching and that of its sister standards. Both represent the singing of psalms as prescribed. Both are silent about the prescription of instrumental music. Now if it could be proved that the latter is necessary to the former, the prescription of one would logically imply the prescription of the other. But we have seen that there is no such necessity. We are obliged therefore to exclude instrumental music as illegitimate, in view of the express declaration of the Confession and other standards that we are forbidden to introduce anything into the worship of God which is not prescribed. Here is a circumstance which is neither necessary nor prescribed. It cannot, therefore, be among the circumstances legitimated by the Confession.
We have now seen that the action of singing praise in the worship of God is one peculiar to the church and not common to it with all other societies, and that instrumental music is a circumstance concerning this peculiar ecclesiastical action which, therefore, cannot be common to human actions and societies. Consequently, it is not one of those circumstances which are in the discretionary power of the church, precisely as they are in the discretionary power of all societies. No circumstance peculiar to and distinctive of the church, as such, can be one of the circumstances mentioned by the Confession of Faith.
The question then returns: What are the circumstances concerning the worship of God which the church has the right to order according to the light of nature and Christian prudence? Their proper definition is, that they are CONDITIONS upon which the actions of all human societies are performed,"”conditions without which the actions of any society either cannot be performed at all, or cannot be performed decently and in order.
First, They are conditions which are not peculiar to the acts of any particular society, but common to the acts of all societies. They cannot, consequently, be peculiar to the acts of the church as a particular society. But instrumental music is a condition peculiar to the act of singing praise in some particular churches. The conclusion is obvious. Let us take, for example, the circumstances of time and place. They condition the meeting and therefore the acts of every society. None could meet and act without the appointment of a time and a place for the assembly. This is true alike of the church and an infidel club. In this respect they are dependent upon the same conditions. Neither could meet and act without complying with this condition. This is a specimen of the Confession´s circumstances which are common to human actions and societies. It is ridiculous to say that instrumental music is in such a category.
It cannot be overlooked, as has just been intimated, that instrumental music is a circumstance which is not common to even particular churches. Some have it, and some do not. How can it be common to all societies, when it is not common to churches themselves? How can the conclusion be avoided, that it is not one of the circumstances designated by the Confession of Faith?
Secondly, The circumstances indicated by the Confession are not parts of the acts of societies: they simply condition the performance of the acts. They are in no sense qualities or modes of the acts. If the proof of this position is required, it is found in the simple consideration that some at least of the acts of various societies are different acts"”they are not common between them. It is therefore obvious that the parts of those acts fall into the category of the acts of which they are parts. But these circumstances are common to the acts of all societies. To recur to the example of time and place. These, it is needless to say, while necessary conditions of the acts of all societies, are, from the nature of the case, parts of the acts of none, The resolutions adopted by any society surely do not embrace in them time and place as integral elements, or qualities or modes. But instrumental music, although sometimes employed in churches by itself as a distinct act"”in which case it stands confessed as not prescribed and forbidden"”is generally used along with singing as a part of the act of church-worship. In these cases it certainly qualifies or modifies the act. As, therefore, it enters as an element into the acts of the church, as a distinctive society, and does not into the acts of all societies, it is ruled out by that fact from the class of circumstances indicated by the Confession.
Thirdly, These circumstances are conditions of actions as they are actions, and not as they are these or those particular kinds of actions. They condition all sorts of actions of all sorts of societies. The debates and votes of a secular deliberative body are as much conditioned by them as the prayers and praises of the church. It will scarcely be contended that instrumental music is a circumstance which conditions the debates and votes of a legislature or of a political meeting. But if not, it is conceded to be excluded from those circumstances which are pronounced by the Confession common to human actions and societies.
Fourthly, These circumstances are conditions necessary to the actions of all societies,"”necessary either to the performance of the actions, or to their decorous performance. Let it be observed, that they are necessary not to the performance or the decorous performance of some peculiar actions of particular societies, but to all the actions of all societies. To take the ground that instrumental music is a circumstance in some way a necessary condition of the singing of praise in church-worship is to go outside of those circumstances which the Confession of Faith contemplates. A condition of this peculiar action of the church, however necessary to the performance of the action its employers may deem it, cannot possibly be a common condition of human actions and societies. It lies outside of that class, and therefore outside of the circumstances which the Confession has in view. Instrumental music is palpably such a condition, and cannot be justified by an appeal to this section of the Confession.
Fifthly, These circumstances, as conditions upon which the acts of societies are to be done, cannot be religious in their character. The reason is perfectly plain: they condition the acts of all secular societies, and it would be out of the question to say that they proceed upon religious conditions. But instrumental music when employed in the worship of God´s house is religious. Hence the plea for organs, that they have a solemn sound, and are on that account peculiarly adapted to accompany the singing of praise as a religious act. If it be said that they are a secular accompaniment of religious worship, it may well be asked, By what right is such an accompaniment to the worship of God employed, without a distinct warrant from him? And when the organ is played without the accompaniment of the singing of praise, is it then secular or religious? If secular, will it be justified on the ground that secular music may, by itself, be allowed in God´s house, and that he may be worshipped in a worldly manner? If religious, the question is given up; and then we are compelled to return to the assertion that the church has no discretion in appointing religious elements: they are not among the circumstances which are common to human actions and societies.
The foregoing argument has shown that instrumental music cannot, on any supposable ground, be regarded as a circumstance common to human actions and societies, and that it is therefore excluded by the Confession of Faith from the discretionary control of the church. Unless, then, it can be proved to be one of the things commanded by Christ and his apostles, it cannot be lawfully employed in connection with the worship of God´s house. In order to meet the criticism which may be passed upon the argument that it springs from a singular and contracted conception of the doctrine as to circumstances stated in the Confession of Faith, the views of a few eminent theologians will be cited in its support.
Dr. John Owen, in arguing against a liturgy, enounces the principles contended for in these remarks. "Circumstances," he says,  "are either such as follow actions as actions, or such as are arbitrarily superadded and adjoined by command unto actions, which do not of their own accord, nor naturally nor necessarily attend them. Now religious actions in the worship of God are actions still. Their religious relation doth not destroy their natural being. Those circumstances, then, which do attend such actions as actions not determined by divine institution, may be ordered, disposed of, and regulated by the prudence of men. For instance, prayer is a part of God´s worship. Public prayer is so, as appointed by him. This, as it is an action to be performed by man, cannot be done without the assignment of time, and place, and sundry other things, if order and conveniency be attended to. These are circumstances that attend all actions of that nature, to be performed by a community, whether they relate to the worship of God or no. These men may, according as they see good, regulate and change as there is occasion; I mean, they may do so who are acknowledged to have power in such things. As the action cannot be without them, so their regulation is arbitrary, if they come not under some divine disposition and order, as that of time in general doth. There are also some things, which some men call circumstances also, that no way belong of themselves to the actions whereof they are said to be the circumstances, nor do attend them, but are imposed on them, or annexed unto them, by the arbitrary authority of those who take upon them to give order and rules in such cases; such as to pray before an image or towards the east, or to use this or that form of prayer in such gospel administrations, and no other. These are not circumstances attending the nature of the thing itself, but are arbitrarily superadded to the things that they are appointed to accompany. Whatever men may call such additions, they are no less parts of the whole wherein they serve than the things themselves whereunto they are adjoined." He then goes on to prove from Scripture that "such additions to or in the worship of God, besides or beyond his own institution and appointment" are not "allowable, or lawful to be practised."
In another place the same great theologian says:  "Whatever is of circumstance in the manner of its performance [worship], not capable of especial determination, as emerging or arising only occasionally, upon the doing of that which is appointed at this or that time, in this or that place, and the like, is left unto the rule of moral prudence, in whose observation their order doth consist. But the superaddition of ceremonies necessarily belonging neither to the institutions of worship nor unto those circumstances whose disposal falls under the rule of moral prudence, neither doth nor can add any thing unto the due order of gospel worship; so that they are altogether needless and useless in the worship of God. Neither is this the whole of the inconvenience wherewith their observance is attended; for although they are not in particular and expressly in the Scripture forbidden"”for it was simply impossible that all instances wherein the wit of man might exercise its invention in such things should be reckoned up and condemned"”yet they fall directly under those severe prohibitions which God hath recorded to secure his worship from all such additions unto it of what sort soever . . . . The Papists say, indeed, that all additions corrupting the worship of God are forbidden, but such as further adorn and preserve it are not so, which implies a contradiction, for whereas every addition is principally a corruption, because it is an addition, under which notion it is forbidden (and that in the worship of God which is forbidden is a corruption of it), there can be no such preserving, adorning addition, unless we allow a preserving and adorning corruption. Neither is it of more force, which is pleaded by them, that the additions which they make belong not unto the substance of the worship of God, but unto the circumstances of it; for every circumstance observed religiously, or to be observed in the worship of God, is of the substance of it, as were all those ceremonious observances of the law, which had the same respect in the prohibitions of adding, with the most weighty things whatsoever."
"There is nothing," says George Gillespie,  "which any way pertaineth to the worship of God left to the determination of human laws beside the mere circumstances, which neither have any holiness in them, forasmuch as they have no other use and praise in sacred than they have in civil things, nor yet were particularly determinable in Scripture, because they are infinite; but sacred, significant ceremonies, such as [the] cross, kneeling, surplice, holidays, bishopping, etc., which have no use and praise except in religion only, and which, also, were most easily determinable (yet not determined) within those bounds which the wisdom of God did set to his written Word, are such things as God never left to the determination of any human law."
He speaks more explicitly to the same effect in the following words:  "I direct my course straight to the dissecting of the true limits within which the church´s power of enacting laws about things pertaining to the worship of God is bounded and confined, and which it may not overleap nor transgress. Three conditions I find necessarily requisite in such a thing as the church has power to prescribe by her laws:
"1. It must be only a circumstance of divine worship; no substantial part of it; no sacred, significant, and efficacious ceremony. For the order and decency left to the definition of the church, as concerning the particulars of it, comprehendeth no more but mere circumstances . . . . Though circumstances be left to the determination of the church, yet ceremonies, if we speak properly, are not . . . circumstances which have place in all moral actions, and that to the same end and purpose for which they serve in religious actions"”namely, for beautifying them with that decent demeanor which the very light and law of natural reason requireth as a thing beseeming all human actions. For the church of Christ, being a society of men and women, must either observe order and decency in all the circumstances of their holy actions, time, place, person, form, etc., or else be deformed with that disorder and confusion which common reason and civility abhorreth.
"2. That which the church may lawfully prescribe by her laws and ordinances, as a thing left to her determination, must be one of such things as were not determinable by Scripture on that reason which Camero hath given us, namely, because individua are infinita. . . . We say truly of those several and changeable circumstances which are left to the determination of the church, that, being almost infinite, they were not particularly determinable in Scripture . . . . . But as for other things pertaining to God´s worship, which are not to be reckoned among the circumstances of it, they being in number neither many nor in change various, were most easily and conveniently determinable in Scripture. Now, since God would have his Word (which is our rule in the works of his service) not to be delivered by tradition, but to be written and sealed unto us, that by this means, for obviating satanical subtility and succoring human imbecility, we might have a more certain way for conservation of true religion, and for the instauration of it when it faileth among men,"”how can we but assure ourselves that every such acceptable thing pertaining any way to religion, which was particularly and conveniently determinable in Scripture, is indeed determined in it; and consequently, that no such thing as is not a mere alterable circumstance is left to the determination of the church?
"3. If the church prescribe anything lawfully, so that she prescribe no more than she hath power given her to prescribe, her ordinance must be accompanied with some good reason and warrant given for the satisfaction of tender consciences."
"As a positive institution, with a written charter," remarks Dr. Thornwell,  "she [the church] is confined to the express or implied teachings of the Word of God, the standard of her authority and rights, . . . as in the sphere of doctrine she has no opinions, but a faith, so, in the sphere of practice, she has no expedients, but a law. Her power is solely ministerial and declarative. Her whole duty is to believe and obey. Whatever is not commanded, expressly or implicitly, is unlawful. . . . According to our view, the law of the church is the positive one of conformity with Scripture; according to the view which we condemned, it is the negative one of non-contradiction to Scripture. According to us, the church, before she can move, must not only show that she is not prohibited, she must also show that she is actually commanded, she must produce a warrant. Hence we absolutely denied that she has any discretion in relation to things not commanded. She can proclaim no laws that Christ has not ordained, institute no ceremonies which he has not appointed, create no offices which he has not prescribed, and exact no obedience which he has not enjoined. She does not enter the wide domain which he has left indifferent, and by her authority bind the conscience where he has left it free.
"But does it follow from this that she has absolutely no discretion at all? On the contrary, we distinctly and repeatedly asserted, that in the sphere of commanded things she has a discretion"”a discretion determined by the nature of the actions, and by the divine principle that all things be done decently and in order. . . . We only limited and defined it. We never denied that the church has the right to fix the hours of public worship, the times and places of the meetings of her courts, the numbers of which they shall be composed, and the territories which each shall embrace. Our doctrine was precisely that of the Westminster standards, of John Calvin, of John Owen, of the Free Church of Scotland, and of the noble army of Puritan martyrs and confessors."
After quoting the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith on the subject, he goes on to say: "Here the discretion is limited to some circumstances, and those common to human actions and societies. Now, the question arises, What is the nature of these circumstances? A glance at the proof-texts on which the doctrine relies enables us to answer. Circumstances are those concomitants of an action without which it either cannot be done at all, or cannot be done with decency and decorum. Public worship, for example, requires public assemblies, and in public assemblies people must appear in some costume, and assume some posture. Whether they shall shock common sentiment in their attire, or conform to common practice; whether they shall stand, sit or lie, or whether each shall be at liberty to determine his own attitude"”these are circumstances; they are the necessary concomitants of the action, and the church is at liberty to regulate them. Public assemblies, moreover, cannot be held without fixing the time and place of meeting; these, too, are circumstances which the church is at liberty to regulate. Parliamentary assemblies cannot transact their business with efficiency and despatch"”indeed, cannot transact it decently at all"”without committees. Committees, therefore, are circumstances common to parliamentary societies, which the church, in her parliaments, is at liberty to appoint. All the details of our government in relation to the distribution of courts, the number necessary to constitute a quorum, the times of their meetings, the manner in which they shall be opened,"”all these, and such like, are circumstances, which, therefore, the church has a perfect right to arrange. We must carefully distinguish between those circumstances which attend actions as actions"”that is, without which the actions could not be, and those circumstances which, though not essential, are added as appendages. These last do not fall within the jurisdiction of the church. She has no right to appoint them. They are circumstances in the sense that they do not belong to the substance of the act. They are not circumstances in the sense that they so surround it that they cannot be separated from it. A liturgy is a circumstance of this kind, as also the sign of the cross in baptism, and bowing at the name of Jesus. Owen notes the distinction."
These great men concur in showing that the circumstances of which the Confession of Faith speaks as falling under the discretionary control of the church in the sphere of worship are not superadded appendages to the acts of worship, which may or may not accompany them as the church may determine, but are simply conditions necessary either to the performance of the acts or to their decent and orderly performance"”conditions not peculiar to these acts of the church as a distinctive society, but common to the acts of all societies. Particular attention is challenged to the views cited from Gillespie, for the reason that he was a member of the Westminster Assembly, and of course accurately knew and expounded the doctrine of that body on this subject. He draws a clear distinction between what was determinable by Scripture and what was not. What was not so determinable was left to be determined by the church; what was so determinable was excluded from her discretion. Now it is certain that instrumental music was, under the Jewish dispensation, actually determined by the revealed will of God as an element in the temple worship. Need it be said that it was, therefore, not indeterminable? It might have pleased God to determine it as an element in the worship of the synagogue, and in like manner it might have pleased him to determine it as an appendage to that of the christian church. He did not, and consequently it is prohibited. This conclusively settles the doctrine of the Westminster Assembly. It intended to teach that instrumental music was not one of the circumstances indeterminable by Scripture and committed to the discretion of the church. As the question here is in regard to the meaning of the circumstances of which the Confession of Faith treats, this consideration is absolutely decisive. Instrumental music cannot, without violence to the Confession, be placed in the category of circumstances determinable by the church. As, then, it is not commanded it is forbidden; and they who justify its employment in public worship are liable to the serious charge of adding to "the counsel of God" which is "set down" in his Word.
<center></center>Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
Here are a few additional helps for the discussion on circumstances in worship, some of which relate specifically to instrumental music. Please pardon the length of the citations. I don't intend to enter the discussion at hand beyond providing these excerpts which I think are relevant and profitable.
I say "seems" because I want to think it's more than this but it appears that the argument always stems back to "Puritans said instruments were a relic of Popery. I believe it. That settles it."Now, this was the way in which the Westminster divines, together with the whole Puritan party, were accustomed to argue, and in addition to this method of argument from Scripture, they also condemned instrumental music as one of those badges of Popery from which they contended that the church should be purged.
I understand the classification of circumstances versus sub-categories of circumstances as you are describing it. What I'm interested in is support (Scriptural, confessional, historic) for that particular way of classifying them.Originally posted by armourbearer
If the word "circumstance" is taken together with its usual distinguishing word, "essence"; and if we understand the historic philosophic meaning of this distinction, which goes all the way back to Aristotle; it will be clear that the word "circumstance" does not refer to anything that is not of the essence of worship, but is being used in the sense of "accidental." This means that the action is attached in some manner to the part of worship which Scripture prescribes.
Now, a place and a time of meeting are "attached" to the act of meeting together, as per the requirement of Scripture. These can definitely be shown to be a circumstance of worship. Any sub-category of time and place is completely at the disposal of Christian prudence to organise, as long as it is in accord with the general rules of the Word, i.e., it does not require a transgression of its moral principles. So the choice to meet internally or externally is not a circumstance of worship. Neither is the choice to sit the people on pews. Sitting is a circumstance (except in the case of prayer, where there is good Scriptural warrant to believe standing is mandated); however the choice of seat is not. These things are not attached to the action of worship prescribed by God, so they are not accidental or circumstantial to it.
I see your point, but also think that the issue of instruments during something like the Supper or during the collection of tithes and offerings is directly contingent on one's view of what constitutes a circumstance versus an element, and whether or not the former must be necessary for the element or simply beneficial for it. So I think the discussion on that can remain in the current thread as long as we make sure not to veer off into simply discussing the biblical allowance for instruments altogether.Originally posted by NaphtaliPress
I was going to make the suggestion that perhaps the general topic of "circumstances of worship" should be split off to its own thread and maybe we could accumulate some of the background material on it that Chris is seeking (I think Owen has some material but I don't have him). Maybe someone can split the approriate posts off to start that. I really think this needs addressing out of the context of the specific subject of this thread. For what it's worth.
How does the portion of the confession that you put in bold support or imply the notion that circumstances of worship are those more general categorical things that are necessary to the elements (rather than those more specific things that are simply beneficial to the elements)?Originally posted by NaphtaliPress
Here is what the WCF says on circumstances of worship.
WCF 1.6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man´s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelaÂ¬tions of the Spirit, or traditions of men.m Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:1n and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.o
I think it might be hard to arrive at a single statement. We begin with the RPW -- If it is not commanded it is not to be done, and the usual passages in Deut. and Matt. to establish that. Here is the substance. The accidence is arrived at by realising that certain things which are not commanded must be done in order to fulfil the command. And passages which speak of "nature" and "decency and order" then apply.Originally posted by Me Died Blue
I understand the classification of circumstances versus sub-categories of circumstances as you are describing it. What I'm interested in is support (Scriptural, confessional, historic) for that particular way of classifying them.
But that comparison does not take into account or accurately represent the very thing that we are arguing validates instruments as a circumstance of praise: Their sole function is to maximize the ability of the congregation to engage in the element (indeed, that function being key to a circumstance is the reason we all at least agree that background music by itself is questionable). A consistent beat and tune helps people to be able to truly sing in a very real way, a way in which I somehow don't see incense helping people to engage in the element of prayer.Originally posted by armourbearer
One could as easily argue that burning incense is a circumstance of prayer as argue that mechanical instruments are a circumstance of praise.
Sort of. The reason why we see things differently is because you view mechanical instruments in an elemental way (attached to ceremonial worship). Since I do not but merely see them as something that naturally aids singing in the same way that a microphone (or good acoustics) aids speaking then I don't make the same connection. It appears we might agree that instruments would be acceptable if we agreed that instrumental music was not an element of worship.Originally posted by armourbearer
This would be better:
The boy THREW the plate
The preacher told jokes.
The microphone doesn't enter into the nature of the action. Of old they would make buidlings so that the acoustics would carry. Now they even have telephone hook ups. Why do we have chairs with backs, some with cushions? Carpet on the floors, with different colours, curtains on the windows. These things are part and parcel of those actions which we commonly perform.
However, singing itself is commanded. And we must consider that mechanical instruments belonged to OT worship. If this is accepted, then it is clear that the duty to sing in the NT is without musical instruments, the ceremonial worship of the OT having been abolished. One could as easily argue that burning incense is a circumstance of prayer as argue that mechanical instruments are a circumstance of praise.
I hope this is helpful.
I suppose it doesn't take that into account. But then I am coming at it from the other side. Who says it maximises ability to sing? Is maximum ability to sing even desirable, when grace in the heart is what the Lord is looking at? A highchurchman might argue for maximum ability to pray with the burning of incense. Just as a jus humanum episcopalian argues for maximum ability to unify the church by the installation of a diocesan bishop. Then come vestments, altars, festival days, etc, etc. These are all man's thoughts about what is best.Originally posted by Me Died Blue
But that comparison does not take into account or accurately represent the very thing that we are arguing validates instruments as a circumstance of praise: Their sole function is to maximize the ability of the congregation to engage in the element (indeed, that function being key to a circumstance is the reason we all at least agree that background music by itself is questionable). A consistent beat and tune helps people to be able to truly sing in a very real way, a way in which I somehow don't see incense helping people to engage in the element of prayer.
"...the light of nature and Christian prudence..." say so.Originally posted by armourbearer
I suppose it doesn't take that into account. But then I am coming at it from the other side. Who says it maximises ability to sing?Originally posted by Me Died Blue
But that comparison does not take into account or accurately represent the very thing that we are arguing validates instruments as a circumstance of praise: Their sole function is to maximize the ability of the congregation to engage in the element (indeed, that function being key to a circumstance is the reason we all at least agree that background music by itself is questionable). A consistent beat and tune helps people to be able to truly sing in a very real way, a way in which I somehow don't see incense helping people to engage in the element of prayer.
The same slippery slope argument could be taken with any circumstance. What prevents elders from singing a Psalm a capella to the tune of some Alice Cooper song?Is maximum ability to sing even desirable, when grace in the heart is what the Lord is looking at? A highchurchman might argue for maximum ability to pray with the burning of incense. Just as a jus humanum episcopalian argues for maximum ability to unify the church by the installation of a diocesan bishop. Then come vestments, altars, festival days, etc, etc. These are all man's thoughts about what is best.
But according to episcopalians the light of nature and Christian prudence say alot more than you are willing to admit. Are we really left to a subjective basis for these things? What is the purpose of the RPW, if not to limit the exercise of church power to the command of Christ?Originally posted by SemperFideles
"...the light of nature and Christian prudence..." say so.
That would be morality, not decency. There are some good articles which argue against the use of rock in Christian worship from a moral as over against an aesthetic ground.The same slippery slope argument could be taken with any circumstance. What prevents elders from singing a Psalm a capella to the tune of some Alice Cooper song?
2000 years of church history proves that my lack of trust is not ill-founded.You seem to have little trust in "...the light of nature and Christian prudence..." to govern the application of a circumstance.
Because while singing specifically to God is not an action common to society, singing is itself such an action, and that is the point. It's just like with the seating and microphone: While listening to a sermon about God and sitting through a pastor's teaching are not actions common to society, listening to speech and sitting during speech are themselves such actions.Originally posted by armourbearer
To confine myself to the Confession, please note that it is speaking about actions common to societies. As far as worship is concerned, there are actions comon to meeting, such as time and place, as I have said earlier. Singing praise to God is not an action which the church shares with other human societies, so how does one derive from those societies the precedent to use mechanical instruments in worship?
Uggh...I know Gillespie and Rutherford despised mechanical instruments. My goodness. I know you do not accept instruments as a circumstance but it seems like we don't get anywhere because you won't grant that point even for the sake of argumenation. As Chris states above, the light of nature and Christian Prudence are guiding the leaders on how they apply circumstance. If I ascribe no more religious significance to the use of an instrument, with respect to singing, than I do with use of a microphone, with respect to preaching, then the "light of nature" will tell me that singing is better when accomponied.Originally posted by armourbearer
I could appeal to the framers of the WCF to show what they meant by that, and that it didn't include mechanical instruments, but then I am going back to the "Gillespie said," "Rutherford said," problem raised above.
Let me see if I understand you correctly. You want me to change my definition of a circumstance, so that I can accept musical instruments as a circumstance, for the sake of the argument. But that is the issue. Why can't you just accept my definition of a circumstance, and the fact that instruments do not fall in with that definition, just for the sake of the argument?Originally posted by SemperFideles
Uggh...I know Gillespie and Rutherford despised mechanical instruments. My goodness. I know you do not accept instruments as a circumstance but it seems like we don't get anywhere because you won't grant that point even for the sake of argumenation. As Chris states above, the light of nature and Christian Prudence are guiding the leaders on how they apply circumstance. If I ascribe no more religious significance to the use of an instrument, with respect to singing, than I do with use of a microphone, with respect to preaching, then the "light of nature" will tell me that singing is better when accomponied.