Wednesday, September 12, 2007

James Garfield and singing

Thanks to Frank Walton for sending me this post:

From the Diary of Gen. James Garfield

James Garfield, later President of the United States, preached among the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches. Here are his thoughts on attending Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London, England to hear Charles Spurgeon preach:

“At half-past eleven Spurgeon came in, and at once offered a short, simple earnest prayer, and read and helped the whole congregation to sing Watts' stirring hymn: There is a land of pure delight.

For the first time in my life I felt some sympathy with the doctrine that would reject instrumental music from church worship. There must have been five thousand voices joining in the hymn. The whole building was filled and overflowed with the strong volume of song. The music made itself felt as a living, throbbing presence that entered your nerves, brain, heart, and filled and swept you away in its resistless current.”

Published in the 1883 volume of Century Magazine, and is quoted in "Charles H. Spurgeon: His Faith and Works," H.L. Wayland, Copyright 1892 by the American Baptist Publication Society.


Bob Bliss said...

Were the Baptists a capella during this time period? I knew they were at one time but just curious about this time.

Phil Sanders said...


Spurgeon opposed the use of instrumental music in worship and said he was as soon pray with machinery as sing with it. Some in recent years have argued that while Spurgeon opposed its use, he did not think it was a matter of salvation. I am not as sure of the latter.

John MacArthur's book, Ashamed of the Gospel, details a lot of Spurgeon fight to keep the Baptist church pure. Spurgeon used a phrase like our "slippery slope" in referring to the circus-like push that many of the English Baptist church were pursuing in his day. He lost favor with many for his conservative stand.


Bob Bliss said...

Phil, does MacArthur detail Spurgeon's attitude about the instrument?

I always find it interesting when folks visit my congregation and then I go to visit them and the first thing they mention is the lack of instrument in our services. I tell them that in their church they were at one time without an instrument (for doctrinal reasons) and that it was a recent addition. They usually don't believe me. What can you say?

Kathy said...

The following article is more about congregational singing than instrumental music, but it is very interesting. It was published in 1896 in a Presbyterian publication:

The Case Against the Choir

Phil Sanders said...

Thanks for the link, Cathy.

On the website, I have an essay entitled, "Small group singing and solos." This essay is also a chapter in my book Adrift.

You can download it at:


Bob Bliss said...

I have on PDF files a book by a Presbyterian against using the instrument in worship. Apparently there is a small Presbyterian group that still worships without the instrument. I cannot find my PDF files currently but hopefully I will shortly.

Phil Sanders said...

Brian Schwertley of Lansing Michigan, a member of the Presbyterian Church has written extensively against the use of IM in worship.

An interesting feature of his opposition to changes in music is that he believes on the Psalms (OT) should be sung, since they are Biblical.

He also builds a case against the instrument using Calvin's regulative principle (which I believe is sound Biblically). In some of their material you can find the entire Girardeau book. Girardeau laments that Presyterians got the instrument in by one vote.

If you Google Brian, you will likely find the material you desire.