Ridgley: No Precept Nor Precedent For Instruments In NT Worship

QUESTION CLIV. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
ANSWER. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

…It is farther objected that those arguments which have been taken from the practice of the Old Testament church, to prove singing an ordinance, may, with equal justice, be alleged to prove the use of instrumental music in religious worship; since we very often read of their praising God with ‘the sound of the trumpet, psaltery, harp, organ,’ and other musical instruments. This is the principal argument brought for the use of musical instruments by those who defend it and conclude it an help to devotion. But, though we often read of music being used in singing the praises of God under the Old Testament; yet if what has been said concerning its being a type of that spiritual joy which attends our praising God for the privilege of that redemption which Christ has purchased, the objection will appear to have no weight, the type being now abolished, together with the ceremonial law. Besides, though we read of the use of music in the temple-service, yet it does not sufficiently appear that it was ever used in the Jewish synagogues; the mode of worship observed in which more resembled that which is at present performed by us in our public assemblies. But what may sufficiently determine this matter, is that we have no precept nor precedent for it in the New Testament, either from the practice of Christ, or his apostles. Some, indeed, allege that the absence of any such precept or precedent overthrows the ordinance of singing, and pretend that this ought to be no more used by us than the harp, organ, or other musical instruments. But it might as well be objected that, because incense, which was used under the ceremonial law, together with prayer in the temple,n is not now to be offered by us, prayer ought to be laid aside; which is, as all own, a duty founded on the moral law.

…Again, when the psalmist makes use of those phrases which are adapted to the ceremonial law, as when he speaks of ‘binding the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar,’ or of ‘offering bullocks upon it;’z the language cannot be taken in a literal sense, when applied to the gospel-state. And when we are exhorted to ‘praise God with the psaltery,’ &c., we are to express those acts of faith which are agreeable to the gospel-dispensation. The general rule, indeed, which is applicable to all psalms of a similar nature, is that with the same frame of spirit with which we read them, we ought to sing them.

—Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, 2 vol. (London, 1733; repr. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1855), 2.433, 437, 438.

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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