“Only as aids to congregational singing” by William Plumer

“If instruments are used in public worship, it ought to be only as aids to congregational singing. Where they discourage this, they are an intolerable offence.

Light and silly voluntaries, long and unmeaning interludes between the stanzas, loud accompaniment, fancy stop, and see-saw swell-playing, and other things similar, should be wholly discountenanced.”

–William Plumer, Psalms: A Critical and Expository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, originally published in 1867; reprinted 2016), 413. Plumer is commenting on Psalm 33.

“This is music out loud” by Douglas Wilson

“In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul requires musical instrumentation in worship. He says there that we are to be ‘speaking to [one another] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] heart to the Lord’ (Eph. 5:19). The translation in the heart would better be rendered as with the heart. We would say ‘singing and making melody with all our hearts.’

This is not an arbitrary choice; we can tell this contextually. The short phrase ‘making melody’ is a rendition of a word that means to pluck a string–psallo. Going over a song in our hearts is something we have all done. Singing silently can be done–even though it is frustrating, and is always looking for an outlet.

But very few of us have played the oboe in our hearts, or played a trumpet or piano there. Doing that kind of thing is way too close to playing air guitar. Telling the Ephesians to play the violin in their hearts would be a little bit odd. So Paul tells the Ephesians to sing and play stringed instruments–just the kind of thing that the psalmist would exhort Israel and all the nations to do.

This is music out loud. But the driving force of the exhortation reveals the motive for instruments, and the motive for robust singing. We are told to sing with all our hearts. This kind of heart attitude looks around for ways to make it better, richer, louder. The same kind of thing comes out in Colossians.

As the word dwells in us richly, the music should come out richly. A rich interior life cannot result in a poverty-stricken musical expression. We are here to worship God. We have music before us that is designed to help us with this. We should stand on the balls of our feet, eager to express in song what we believe God has done for us. After all, He is worthy.”

–Douglas Wilson, “Instruments in Worship,” (accessed on 9/17/2009).

“Rise and Fall” by Daniel Renstrom

“Rise and Fall”
By Daniel Renstrom, 2009

The dawn of the light
Is breaking tonight
At the birth of this dangerous boy.

And shepherds and kings
Bow down and sing
At the birth of this dangerous boy.

Many will rise and fall
At the birth of this King, the birth of this King.
Many will rise and fall
At the birth of this King, the birth of this King.

Those who oppose
Stumble on this Stone
At the birth of this dangerous King

But many will hear
Believing in fear
Will hope in this dangerous King.

Daniel Renstrom, “Rise and Fall,” On The Incarnation. Catapult, 2009.