Thursday, August 06, 2009

J. L. Dagg on the Musical Aspects of Worship

Baptist theologian J. L. Dagg (1794-1884) offers his view on what is fitting with regard to the musical aspects of the worship of God's people in his Manual of Church Order (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858) in a section under the mode of worship (see pp. 238-40). Dagg writes:
Praise may be mingled with the petitions and thanksgivings offered in prayer; and is then, like these, expressed in prose, and with the ordinary voice. But poetry and music are specially appropriate in the expression of praise. They were used in early times, and formed an important part of the temple worship. In the New Testament, we find frequent use of singing; and it is expressly commanded in several passages (Col. iii. 16; Eph. v. 19; James v. 13). The phrase "admonishing one another in psalms," &c., being addressed to a church, sufficiently indicates that singing was designed to be a part of the church's public worship.

The book of Psalms was composed for the temple worship. It serves as a help and general directory in this part of the public service; but there is no proof that our praises ought to be expressed in no words but those found in this book. We have no book of prayers in the Bible; and we learn from this that a book of prayers is not needed in our public worship; but we have a book of Psalms, because, in a service in which many are to speak together, they cannot speak the same things without previous preparation. We learn hence the lawfulness of using hymn-books; and experience has proved their great utility.

Instrumental music formed a part of the temple worship; but it is nowhere commanded in the New Testament; and it is less adapted to the more spiritual service of the present dispensation.

Dagg, therefore, rejected exclusive psalmody, and he did not condone the use of instrumental music in worship (concurring with Francis Wayland).


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