Plain Singing With No Instruments

Justin Martyr AD 150:

“Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing and cymbals,etc. Whence the use of such instruments and other things for children are lain aside, and plain singing only retained.”

Clemens of Alexandria AD 190:

“We Cristian’s make use only of one organ or instrument, even the peaceful Word, with which we honour God; no longer with the old psaltery, trumpet, drum, cymbal, or pipe.”

Cyprian AD 240″

“Such organs, or instruments were then permitted in the OT church for this cause, even for the sake of their weakness, to stir up their minds to perform their external worship with some delight.”

Chrysostom AD 396:

“Instrumental music was permitted to the Jews, as sacrifice was, for the heaviness and grossness of their souls. God condescended to their weakness, because they were lately drawn off idols; but now instead of instruments we may use our bodies to praise Him withal. Again, let no man deceive you, these instruments appertaining not to Christians; these are alien to the Catholics church; all these things do the nations of the world seek after.”

The Magdeburg Centuriators on AD 666:

“At last in the year 666, when the number of the beast (Rev 13) was now full, the churches received Latin singing with organs from Pope Vitalian, and from thence began to say Latin mass and to set up altars with idolatrous images.”

Thomas Aqinas AD 1225-1274:

“In the old law, God was praised both with musical instruments and human voices. But the church does not use musical instruments lest she should seem to Judaize. Nor ought a pipe ,or harp, or the like be brought into use in the Christian Church, but only those things that make the hearer better men. Under the OT such instruments were used because they were typical of something.”

Erasmus AD 1516:

“We have brought a cumbersome and theatrical music into our churches. Men run to church as to a theatre to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries.

Cardinal Cajetan Ad 1518:

“The Church did not use organs in Thomas Aquinas’ time, and even to this day the Church of Rome does not use them in the presence of the Pope.”

Calvin 1546:

“Instrumental music is not fitter to be adopted into the the public worship of the Christian Church than the incense, the candlestick,and the shadows of the Mosaic law.”

John Wesley 1703-1791:

“I have no objection to instruments being in our chapels, provided they are neither seen or heard.”


“We should like to see all all the pipes and organs in our Nonconformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly filled with concrete. The human voice is so transcendently superior.”

Source:, Comment 68


God Stands Upon Little Things In The Matter Of His Worship

“The second note is this: In the matters of worship, God stands upon little things.

Such things as seem to be very small and little to us, yet God stands much upon them in the matter of worship, for there is nothing wherein the prerogative of God more appears than in worship. Princes stand much upon their prerogatives. Now God has written the law of natural worship in our hearts. But there are other things in the worship of God that are not written in our hearts, that only depend upon the will of God revealed in His Word, which would not be duties except that they are revealed in His Word. And these are of such a nature as we can see no reason for them except this, that God would have them. As now, there are many kinds of ceremonies to manifest honor to princes that have no reason at all, but merely because it is a civil institution so appointed. So God would have some ways of honoring Himself that the creature should not see the reason for, but merely the will of God to have them so.

Now God stands much upon little things, though men would think it a little matter whether this fire or that fire, and will not this burn as well as that? But God stands upon it. And so for the ark. When Uzza did but touch the ark when it was ready to fall, we would think it no great matter, but one touch of the ark cost him his life. There is not any one small thing in the worship of God but God stands mightily upon it.

In the matter of the Sabbath, that’s His worship. For a poor man to gather a few sticks, what great matter is it? But God stands upon it. And so when the men of Beth-shemesh did but look upon the ark, it cost the lives of fifty thousand threescore and ten men. If it is a matter of a holy thing that concerns His worship, He would not have it abused in anything. Let us learn to make conscience of little things in the worship of God and not to think, “Oh, how nice such are, and how precise and nice in such small things!” You do not understand the nature of Divine worship if so be that you are not nice about it. God is nice and stands upon little things in the matter of His worship.”

~Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship

Source:, Comment 50

Instruments Were Part Of Ceremonial Worship

“I don’t have time to look for Calvin’s view, but Travis has done that work already (see here). The standard position until the mid 19th century for most Presbyterians and nonconformist churches was that the instruments were part of the ceremonial worship and they don’t get a pass by not being specifically stipulated as passing away in the NT, than any other piece of that worship that was not specified. And it is notable that Paul, and he could have easily enough, did not add the instruments specified throughout the psalms to his ‘sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.’ But I have no real zeal to engage the topic again for the umpteenth time; the literature is abundant. See Travis’ general page here on literature. Below Dabney represents the southern Presbyterian view in his review of Girardeau’s book.

Dr. Girardeau has defended the old usage of our church with a moral courage, loyalty to truth, clearness of reasoning and wealth of learning which should make every true Presbyterian proud of him, whether he adopts his conclusions or not. The framework of his arguments is this: it begins with that vital truth which no Presbyterian can discard without a square desertion of our principles. The man who contests this first premise had better set out at once for Rome: God is to be worshipped only in the ways appointed in his word. Every act of public cultus not positively enjoined by him is thereby forbidden. Christ and his apostles ordained the musical worship of the New Dispensation without any sort of musical instrument, enjoining only the singing with the voice of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Hence such instruments are excluded from Christian worship. Such has been the creed of all churches, and in all ages, except of the Popish communion after it had reached the nadir of its corruption at the end of the thirteenth century, and of its prelatic imitators. But the pretext is raised that instrumental music was authorized by Scripture in the Old Testament. This evasion dr. Girardeau ruins by showing that God set up in the Hebrew Church two distinct forms of worship; the one moral, didactic, spiritual and universal, and therefore perpetual in all places and ages that of the synagogues; the other peculiar, local, typical, foreshadowing in outward forms the more spiritual dispensation, and therefore destined to be utterly abrogated by Christ’s coming. Now we find instrumental music, like human priests and their vestments, show-bread, incense, and bloody sacrifice, absolutely limited to this local and temporary worship. But the Christian churches were modeled upon the synagogues and inherited their form of government and worship because it was permanently didactic, moral and spiritual, and included nothing typical. This reply is impregnably fortified by the word of God himself: that when the Antitype has come the types must be abolished. For as the temple-priests and animal sacrifices typified Christ and his sacrifice on Calvary, so the musical instruments of David in the temple-service only typified the joy of the Holy Ghost in his pentecostal effusions.​”

Source:, Comment 47

There Is No Positive Command To Use Musical Instruments In Worship

“You need to start with God’s command for musical instruments in public worship. Where do you find the command first? It’s only found in the command for the priests to do so in temple (ceremonial) worship. Knowing this is fulfilled and doesn’t continue in Christ. Musical instruments do not continue (this is what Calvin meant) because they were part of the ceremonial law from David to Christ. New Testament worship which follows more closely the synagogue worship it would be wise to look at it. Synagogue worship had no use for musical instruments during the time of the Scriptures, and quite frankly not UNTIL Jews implemented their use in the 1950’s. So then if one is to use musical instruments in public worship today there needs to be something very clear (positively) to do so in Scripture. No one can find such a positive command therefore we may not use instruments in public worship. ”

Source:, Comment 27

Musical Instruments Were Connected To Animal Sacrifice

“The worship we see from the apostles is not modeled after the temple, but upon worship in the synagogue. As corrupt as the Jews were at various times, during the intertestamental period when the synagogue rose to prominence, the Jews had enough understanding not to mimic bloody temple worship outside the temple. The synagogue worship was without animal sacrifice and musical instruments. It included prayers, singing of a cappella psalms, the reading of Scripture, and exposition of the Word. (Seem familiar?) The synagogue was self-consciously detached from the worship of the temple. At minimum, they had the sense to know that erecting mini-temples (high places) as their fathers had done was blasphemous.

When Christ came, part of his ministry was to fulfill temple worship and put an end to it. This is why the destruction of the temple was such a big deal, and a major part of Christ’s prophetic ministry. However, God had ordained the synagogue to be the precursor of the church. Musical instruments in worship may seem quite innocuous to us at this time, but that’s because we’ve not understood their connection to ritual sacrifice, which would have been very obvious to the Jewish Christians who formed the early church.

After the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., even the unbelieving Jews ceased using musical instruments, because they recognized their connection with the animal sacrifices.”

Source:, Comment 26

Peculiar to the Infancy of the Church

Calvin on Psalm 149:

“The musical instruments he mentions [in verse 3] were peculiar to this infancy of the Church, nor should we foolishly imitate a practice which was intended only for God’s ancient people.”

Source:, Comment 12

Organs in Presbyterian Churches

First Presbyterian, New York City:

“As early as 1855, the Session at First Church wanted to install a pipe organ to attract younger worshipers, but Elder James Lenox, who controlled the church’s finances, opposed “the sinister influences of such innovations.” After Lenox’s death, however, the way was opened, and in 1887 the first pipe organ was installed.”

First Presbyterian, Chattanooga:

“The church’s first organ was also the first organ in Chattanooga. It was built and installed in 1878 by a ruling elder of the church, John Fernquist.”

Source:, Comment 5

How Did Instruments Enter Into British And Scottish Worship?

A summary of points made by John Price in Old Light on New Worship:

-Organs rapidly proliferated during the 15th century and by the 1500s “an organ was found in nearly every important church.” In the 16th century there was continued introduction of other instruments and instrumentation became a distinguishing hallmark of the Roman liturgy.

-Many of the proto-Reformers like Wycliffe and Hus decried the use of instruments and encouraged unaccompanied congregational singing. Even Papists who wished for reform within the Roman church like Erasmus complained of the use of instruments

-Luther thought that the reform of worship was of secondary importance and allowed instrumentation. This was not unanimous among the Lutherans as both Melancthon and Carlstadt opposed the use of instruments. Nevertheless, the Lutheran church maintained their use for the most part.

-The Reformed almost universally opposed them. Not just Calvin, but Zwingli (despite being an accomplished musician himself), Bullinger, Beza, Knox, and Pareus too. Even men like Menno Simons (founder of the Mennonites) and prelatists like Robert Horne and John Marbeck opposed the organ and other instruments. In the Church of England, instruments were abolished in the second prayer book (1563)

-The Puritans were uniformly against it. The Westminster standards don’t directly address the issue since the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland and acts of Parliament in England had already abolished them by law.

-This continues into the 17th century. Even Isaac Watts wrote against the use of instruments. The only dissenting voice appears to be of Richard Baxter who thought them indifferent. On this, as in other important matters, he is a poor guide for Reformed theology and practice, however.

-The uniformity begins to breakdown in the early 18th century. There was still widespread opposition but in some churches smaller orchestral instruments begin to be imported from the schoolhouse to the church. The first organ installed in a church of Puritan heritage was in 1770 in First Congregational Church in Providence, Rhode Island. While present in the Anglican churches too, many continued to voice opposition there as well.

-Scottish Presbyterianism finally succumbs in the late 19th century, seemingly under the influence of revivalists like Dwight Moody. Still, many prominent ministers and theologians continued opposing them on both sides of the Pacific such as Spurgeon, John L. Dagg, Dabney, Thornwell, Giradeau, etc.

– In the 20th century revivalism and the piano (and eventually the guitar) won out, as we all can see.

Source:, Comment 4

How Did Instruments Become Part of Christian Worship?

“The first recorded example of instruments in worship is the introduction of an organ into a Roman church by Pope Vitalianus in 670. The next example was in 812 when Charlemagne had a copy of a court organ made for a cathedral. They remained extremely uncommon for centuries. Aquinas said in the 13th century: “The Church does not use musical instruments such as the harp or lyre when praising God, in case she should seem to fall back into Judaism. … For musical instruments usually move the soul more to pleasure than create inner moral goodness. But in the Old Testament, they used instruments of this kind, both because the people were more coarse and carnal, so that they needed to be aroused by such instruments and with worldly promises, and also because these bodily instruments were symbolic of something.” It wasn’t until the 14th and 15th centuries that the organ gained more widespread prominence, so at the time of the Reformation instruments were still, relatively speaking, novelties in the church.”

Source:, Comment 2

Arminianism and the Lord’s Day

While Arminian converts usually manifest a strict and praise-worthy abstention in the life they lead from drink, smoking, gambling, cinemas, etc., and a self-denying zeal for propagating their gospel and winning converts, their attitude to the Lord’s day is not one of tenderness and love. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace,” is the Scripture which they wrest in order to justify themselves. True believers in Christ are not under the condemnation of the law—”for there is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” but they are ‘under the law to Christ’ as their rule of life. This the apostle states in 1 Cor. 9:21. Love to Christ is manifested and proved by love to His commandments. “If you love Me keep My commandments.” “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). All who have no love for God’s holy day, who are not grieved over how far short they come in keeping the Sabbath holy to the Lord and who are not wounded and grieved in soul when they see the Lord’s day desecrated, whatever their profession, and whatever name they may have, they have but a name to live: they are still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. “This is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3). When the Lord writes His law in the heart in regeneration there is love for the Fourth Commandment, as surely as for the other commandments. Love to the Lord, to His Word, to His Cause, to His people and to His commandments, the holy Sabbath included, cannot be separated.

Arminian church bodies of our day have removed the ancient landmarks set by the godly fathers in the past as safeguards and bulwarks of the sanctity of the sabbath. The result is obvious. The curse of the Popish or “continental Sunday” has overspread the land like a flood. Is it any wonder that Dr. Kennedy of Dingwall said that Voluntaryism and Arminianism must be pioneers of Rationalism, for they are both the off-spring of unbelief?

~Rev. William MacLean, M.A., “Arminiamism: Another Gospel” under “Saving Faith”