Extracts from The Use of Organs in Christian Worship by James Begg (1808 – 1883) of the Free Church of Scotland
Question: Other reformed churches, as those of Holland, use the organ in the worship of God. Why then should not we admit organs into the Established Church of the land?
Organs were not used in the worship of the New Testament Church until the ages of ignorance, will-worship, and idolatry. These [Dutch] Reformed Churches [thus] still retain superstitious and unauthorised practices from following them. We should be diligent in keeping pure and entire the Word of God. Our religious worship must be regulated by Divine authority and not the opinions and practices of men. We have a Master in heaven and must call no man master on earth, and while we should be followers of the best of men, we should do so only as far as they are followers of Christ.
Summary of Basis
Music was employed in the Jewish tabernacle and temple in the praises of God, but this music is inconsistent with the spirituality and simplicity of Gospel worship, and is not authorised by the precepts or examples of Christ or His apostles.
Christians should be very careful not to mingle their own inventions with the instituted ordinances of God’s worship. An opinion is prevalent with many that men may offer to God whatever worship they shall judge proper or agreeable – that as the inclinations, tastes, and feelings of men are various and diversified, so the worship of God may be modelled to suit the different tastes and habits of all; and that all this variety of worship will be equally acceptable to God. Such is the doctrine by which many supersede the necessity of Revelation and degrade the Holy Sovereign of the universe to a conformity with the sentiments and inclinations of His own sinful creatures. Such sentiments are highly impious and unreasonable. It is the undoubted right of the Creator to govern His creatures, and to prescribe to them whatever service He shall judge proper; and since He has, in great mercy, given to them a revelation of His gracious character and will, it is their duty to “receive, and observe, to keep pure, and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in His word.” [Westminster Shorter Catechism answer to Question 50]
To neglect the worship which He has appointed and to substitute in its place human inventions is very dishonouring and provoking to God. “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt 15:19). Christians, actuated by the fear and love of God, should be very solicitous about the worship they offer Him, lest in any instance they “offer strange fire before the Lord, which He hath not commanded” (Lev 10:1).
Praise, and every other part of religious worship, should always be performed in obedience to the commandment of God, with an earnest desire for His approbation and blessing; and also with a dependence upon the grace of the Holy Ghost for assistance, and upon the atonement and intercession of Christ for acceptance. Having unshaken faith in the existence, perfections, providence, and grace of God, they should worship Him daily in “the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).
It may also be added that Christians of the Established Church of Scotland should consider that their religious privileges were dearly obtained, are in themselves very valuable, and ought to be diligently improved. After many sufferings and exertions of our ancestors, favoured by Providence, will-worship, superstition, and idolatry of the Church of Rome was removed from our land. The resulting reformation in worship, discipline, and government (in purity and gospel simplicity) has not been exceeded, and scarcely equalled, by any of the other Reformed Churches of Europe.