Matthew Poole (1624-1679): Organs in Worship

From Poole’s Evangelical Worship is Spiritual Worship, a sermon preached before Lord Maior at St. Paul’s Church, 1660.

There have been some minor updating of old English words and punctuation.

Preface to the sermon (upon publishing)

…Amongst other calumnies which have been cast upon me, one is this, that I wished their fingers might rot that played upon the organs; where I must not only condemn the falsehood and impudence of those that raised and propagated so abominable a lie, but also I must blame the imprudence and uncharitableness of such as were ready to receive and believe so improbable a report. The reader will see that I only declared my dislike of organs in our churches, and therein I think I have better authority than those that are of another mind, forasmuch as in the Homily of the Place and Time of Prayer (a book established and enjoined by the laws of the land), they bring in some superstitious persons, complaining that they could not hear the like piping, singing, chanting and playing upon the organs, that they could before. To this is immediately answered thus: But (dearly beloved), we ought greatly to rejoice and to give thanks to God, that our churches are delivered out of those things which displeased God so sore, and filthily defiled his holy house, etc. Which, how our great zealots for these things, who pretend to be the only genuine sons of the Church of England, can reconcile with their principle and practise, let themselves consider, and let the indifferent judge.

There is a great obstruction to edification and the salvation of souls

Beloved, that man understands little of the worth of a soul that does not value the salvation of one soul before ten thousand of those unnecessary ceremonies. Better all the organs in the world broken, all material temples levelled to the ground, all sacred garments (as they are accounted) of ministers, cast into a fire, than one soul lost. Now this I am persuaded most ingenuous men will agree with me, that the loss of many a soul may be charged upon, or at least was occasioned by, these things. For if an able and powerful ministry be the great means of the salvation of souls, and the removal of such be a taking away of the means of salvation, and many such ministers (such I say in the judgment even of their enemies) have been removed because their consciences could not comply with such impositions; then I think the conclusion is plain enough: that they [corruptions in worship] have been the occasion, if not the cause, of the ruin of many a precious soul.

Some would prefer to have no ministers over having no ceremonies

And [although] I should not [have to] speak of this now, [yet] I see that the same spirit [is] at work again.  And we have too many among us that give us cause to think [that] they would rather have no ministers than no ceremonies; [they would] rather [have] a sottish [i.e., a stupid drunkard] unlearned, debauched ministry than [to] not [have] a ceremonious and superstitious ministry.

No church has authority to destroy souls (by the use of corrupt worship)

Now I beseech you: mark how much this [attitude] differs from the apostolical precept and practise: let no man please himself, but let everyone please his neighbour for his good to edification (Rom 15:2), according to the power which the Lord has given me for edification, not to destruction (2 Cor 13:10). What! had not the apostles [been given] such power [to destruction]? Much less have those that are, or pretend to be, their successors. They speak of the power [i.e., authority] the church has to make canons [i.e., ecclesiastical laws], etc. Be it so, yet have they no power [granted from God] to destruction. And although it be true that all things in the church must be done decently and in order, yet I am sure the order of the church must give way to edification.