The Westminster Confession and Musical Instruments in Worship

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“…singing of psalms with grace in the heart… are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God…”

Westminster Confession of Faith, 21.5

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Order of Contents

Articles
Quotes

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Articles 

Begg, James, the younger – ‘The Westminster Divines and the New Testament Greek.  Objections to the Foregoing Argument’  1866  2 pp.  being Appendix no. V of The Use of Organs and Other Instruments of Music in Christian Worship, pp. 263-4  Only the first half of this appendix is relevant to the Westminster divines.

One of the key phrases quoted, ‘nemine contradicente,’ means, ‘no one objected’.

Girardeau, John

Are Musical Instruments allowed in the Westminster Confession’s phrase “singing of psalms with grace in the heart”?  1888  5 pp.  in his Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church, p. 130 ff.

There is a legal maxim that says, Expressio unius est exclusio alterius, which means: the express statement of one alternative is the exclusion of the other.  That this phrase in the Confession was intended to forbid musical instruments by explicitly appointing acapella singing is known by the Westminster divines’ practice and views against musical instruments in worship.

Are Musical Instruments Circumstances of Worship? Part 1 and Part 2  p. 136 and p. 188 respectively, 18 and 11 pages respectively, from his Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church

The Biblical and Confessional answer is no.

Winzer, Matthew – Westminster and Worship Examined: a Review of Nick Needham’s Essay on the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Teaching Concerning the Regulative Principle, the Singing of Psalms, and the Use of Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God, specifically the last page (p. 266) deals with musical instruments and the Westminster Confession.  From the Confessional Presbyterian #4 (2008)

Winzer here (on the last page of the article) historically demonstrates that the Westminster Assembly was opposed to musical instruments in worship, and the idea that instruments are a circumstance of worship was foreign to the recorded thought and practice of the divines. 

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Quotes

Schwertley, Brian – Musical Instruments in the Public Worship of God: the Historical Evidence  Buy  2003  19 pp.

This anthology of 85 quotes from church history includes 6 from Westminster Divines: Samuel Gibson, John Maitland, Alexander Henderson, Samuel Rutherford, Robert Baillie and George Gillespie; as well as 17 other figures from the Reformation and Puritan era. 

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Dr. Nick Needham

Needham is a contemporary church historian who lectures for Highland Theological College in Scotland

 ‘Westminster and Worship: Psalms, Hymns, and Musical Instruments,’ in The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, vol. 2, ed. J. Ligon Duncan (Rossshire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2005)

p. 291

Clearly the Westminster divines did not believe in the validity of instrumental worship.

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English Parliament  1644, May 9th 

An Ordinance for the further demolishing of Monuments of Idolatry and Superstition

Representations of God, Angels, and Saints.; Copes, Surplisses, Roods, etc.; Organs.

The Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, the better to accomplish the blessed Reformation so happily begun, and to remove all offences and things illegal in the worship of God, do Ordain, That all Representations of any of the Persons of the Trinity, or of any Angel or Saint, in or about any Cathedral, Collegiate or Parish Church, or Chapel, or in any open place within this Kingdom, shall be taken away, defaced, and utterly demolished; And that no such shall hereafter be set up, And that the Chancel-ground of every such Church or Chapel, raised for any altar, or Communion Table to stand upon, shall be laid down and leveled; And that no copes, surplisses, superstitious vestments, roods, or roodlons, holy-water fonts, shall be, or be any more used in any Church or Chapel within this realm; And that no cross, crucifix, picture, or representation of any of the Persons of the Trinity, or of any angel or saint shall be, or continue upon any plate, or other thing used, or to be used in or about the worship of God; And that all organs, and the frames or cases wherein they stand in all Churches or Chapels aforesaid, shall be taken away, and utterly defaced, and none other hereafter set up in their places; and that all copes, surplisses, superstitious vestments, roods, and fonts aforesaid, be likewise utterly defaced; whereunto all persons within this Kingdom, whom it may concern, are hereby required at their peril to yield due obedience.

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Related Pages

Musical Instruments in Worship

Psalm Singing

The Westminster Assembly and Psalm Singing