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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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An ordinance of divine worship, in which we express our joy in God, and gratitude for his mercies. It has always been a branch both of natural and revealed religion, in all ages and periods of time. It was a part of the worship of the Heathens. It was practised by the people of God before the giving of the law of Moses, Exodus 15:1-27 : also under the ceremonial law. Under the Gospel dispensation it is particularly enjoined, Colossians 3:16 . Ephesians 5:19 . It was practised by Christ and his apostles, Matthew 26:30 . and in the earliest times of Christianity. The praises of God may be sung privately in the family, but chiefly in the house of God; and should be attended to with reverence, sincerity, joy, gratitude, and with the understanding, 1 Corinthians 14:15 . Among the Baptists, during the early part of their existence, psalmody was generally excluded as a human ordinance; but some congregations having adopted it about the beginning of the 18th century, a violent controversy was excited. About the middle of the century, however, the praises of God were sung in every Baptist church. It is to be lamented, however, that this ordinance has not that attention paid to it which it deserves. That great divine, Dr. Jonathan Edwards, observes, that "as it is the command of God that all should sing, so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing that cannot be decently performed at all without learning. Those, therefore, (where there is no natural inability) who neglect to learn to sing, live in sin, as they neglect what is necessary in order to their attending one of the ordinances of God's worship."

We leave those who are wilfully dumb in God's house to consider this pointed remark! Much has been said as to the use of instrumental music in the house of God. On the one side it is observed, that we ought not to object to it, because it assists devotion; that it was used in the worship of God under the Old Testament; and that the worship of heaven is represented by a delightful union of vocal and instrumental music. But on the other side, it is remarked, that nothing should be done in or about God's worship without example or precept from the New Testament; that, instead of aiding devotion, it often tends to draw off the mind from the right object; that it does not accord with the simplicity of Christian worship; that the practice of those who lived under the ceremonial dispensation can be no rule for us; that not one text in the New Testament requires or authorises it by precept or example, by express words or fair inference; and that the representation of the musical harmony in heaven is merely figurative language, denoting the happiness of the saints. We have not room here to prosecute the arguments on either side; but the reader may refer to p. 211. of the fourth volume of Bishop Beveridge's Thesaurus; Stillingfleet's and Bp. Horne's Sermons on Church Music; No. 630 of the eighth vol. of the Spectator; Bishop Horne on the 150th Psalm; Theol. Mag. vol. 2: p. 427, and vol. 4: p. 333, 458; Biblical Mag. vol. 2: p. 35; Ridgley's body of Div. ques. 155; Haweis's Church History, vol. 1: p. 403; Williams's Historical Essay on Church Music, prefixed to Psalmodia Evangelica, vol. 2: p. 56; Bedford's Temple Music; Lyra Evangelica; Practical Discourses on Singing in the Worship of God, preached at the Friday Evening Lectures in Eastcheap, 1708; Dodwell's Treatise on the Lawfulness of Instrumental Music in Holy Duties.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Singing'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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