Puritans and secular music

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monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
1. What was the understanding and position of the puritans regarding secular music?

2. Does anyone have recommendations of puritan books on this issue?
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Music was categorized rather differently in those days, but it will still be possible to examine some of their own categories and compare to ours. Much classical music - especially instrumental - they would have regarded as lawful in itself. Yet even so they recommended great care and moderation in the use of recreations. A recreation was not to take up too much time and was to be performed with an eye toward reinvigorating mind and body for labor. On the Lord's day they opposed recreations altogether.

As for opera, they generally opposed it due to its common lasciviousness and their general opposition to drama and stage-plays. "Lascivious songs" are prohibited under the Seventh Commandment in the Larger Catechism.

I am not aware of a specific book focusing on music, but any of their Christian Directories or life manuals will lay out their general views on recreation. I am fond of Henry Scudder's The Christian's Daily Walk and Lewis Bayly's The Practice of Piety. William Prynne's Histriomastix is the definitive Puritan treatment of stage-plays, which would cover opera and probably touches on lascivious music in general.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I recommend this: The Puritans and Music in England and New England: A Contribution to the Cultural History of the Two Nations by Percy A. Scholes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934).

Scholes (1877-1958) will give you a fair history of music as it relates to the Puritans. This book, by the way, was one of the first to start to clear away the unfair and misleading caricatures regarding the Puritans.
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I forgot to add two things. First, the Puritans certainly would have opposed the vast majority of modern secular music due to its pervasive worldliness, vanity, and immorality. They would have abhorred modern Christian music. Secondly, as all things were to be done to the glory of God but worship to be limited to the Lord's revealed will, they would have prefered music that is not intended for worship but nevertheless is consistent in content with true religion.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Some info about the New England Puritans:

"In 1716, an advertisement in the Boston News announced the arrival of a shipment of instruments from London, consisting of "flageolets, flutes, haut-boys, bass-viols, violins, bows, strings, reeds for haut-boys, books of instruction for all these instruments, books of ruled paper. To be sold at the dancing school of Mr Enstone in Sudbury reet near the Orange Tree, Boston." So by this time Boston had a fully equipped music store, and located in a dancing school at that!"
Chase, Gilbert (1955). America's Music: from the Pilgrims to the Present. McGraw-Hill.

The Puritans had no objections to music and instruments in civil or military ceremonies. Beyond this, however, opinions varied.
https://books.google.com/books?id=Ok-GL5hMSIMC&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=new+england+puritans+liked+music&source=bl&ots=6Kclext-0M&sig=bcKYnaXFty3Pr6294cIewtKFayo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjc5_fKldzJAhXMmh4KHUB6AbgQ6AEINTAE#v=onepage&q=new%20england%20puritans%20liked%20music&f=false


The Truth about the New England Puritans and Music.....they didn't really hate it says this paper:
https://edwardseducationblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/scholes.pdf
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
What is secular music?

Music written by the unconverted?

Music on creational and providential themes, rather than redemptive themes, written by the converted and unconverted?

How do you tell if a piece of music - without lyrics - is on a redemptive theme vis-a-vis a creational or providential theme, or that it is written by the converted or the unconverted?
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
What is secular music?

Music written by the unconverted?

Music on creational and providential themes, rather than redemptive themes, written by the converted and unconverted?

How do you tell if a piece of music - without lyrics - is on a redemptive theme vis-a-vis a creational or providential theme, or that it is written by the converted or the unconverted?
Or what is a Christian concert? :)
 

au5t1n

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Did the Puritans listen to classical music?
What we think of as one genre ("classical music") is really a whole host of different things jumbled together. There is probably more variety in "classical music" than exists across the other genres combined.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
William Orme, Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Religious Connexions of John Owen, D.D., p. 12:

Owen studied music, for recreation, under Dr. Thomas Wilson, a celebrated performer on the flute, who was in constant attendance for some years on Charles I., who used to lean on his shoulder during the time he played. He was made Professor of Music in Oxford by Owen, when he was Vice-chancellor of the University. This shews that the men of that period were neither so destitute of taste, nor so morose and unsocial as they have been often represented.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thomas Watson, 'Christian on the Mount,' in Sermons, 247-248:

When you hear music that delights the senses, presently raise this meditation: What music like a good conscience; this is the bird of paradise within, whose chirping melody doth enchant and ravish the soul with joy; he that hath this music all day, may take David’s pillow at night, and say with that sweet singer, “I will lay me down in peace and sleep,” Psal. iv. 8.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Yes, but they just called it "music".
Even back then there would have been a distinction between what was played at court or in the concert halls and what was played on the street or in the tavern. England, Scotland, and Ireland, but especially Wales, have long folk traditions. It does seem that the Puritans would have been somewhat acquainted with the folk traditions, as psalm tunes have tended to draw heavily from folk music for singability.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
New Model Army was the favourite band of some later English independent Puritans. :p

Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
What is secular music?

Music written by the unconverted?

Music on creational and providential themes, rather than redemptive themes, written by the converted and unconverted?

How do you tell if a piece of music - without lyrics - is on a redemptive theme vis-a-vis a creational or providential theme, or that it is written by the converted or the unconverted?
I was basically thinking about music that does not contain lyrics that worship God, and the use of such music by the puritans.
I was hoping to learn something that could help me with this issue:

How much time during the week should a Christian spend hearing music that does worship God compared to music that doesn't worship God?

Is it a sign that God is not in the center of a Christian's musical worship life if he/she listens to secular music six days a week, but only desires to worship God with music once a week?
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
I was basically thinking about music that does not contain lyrics that worship God, and the use of such music by the puritans.
I was hoping to learn something that could help me with this issue:

How much time during the week should a Christian spend hearing music that does worship God compared to music that doesn't worship God?

Is it a sign that God is not in the center of a Christian's musical worship life if he/she listens to secular music six days a week, but only desires to worship God with music once a week?
I would think it would be where the Spirit leads. Reverend Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions Beethoven, among others, in his sermons. That in the context of comparing Paul's great epistles to symphonies with an overture encapsulating what would follow. I suppose he listened to what we call classical music and perhaps felt it was a gift from God.

Though I used to enjoy Led Zeppelin and the Doors I would not enjoy them now. I consider reading secular literature, novels and the like a waste of time, and perhaps a bad influence. Reading the Bible, and books that help me understand it are a better use of my time. I would say the same goes for music, and even moreso for television and films. OTOH, I am 67 and wasted much time already. I have to husband whatever remains to put it to good use.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Nathan
How much time during the week should a Christian spend hearing music that does worship God compared to music that doesn't worship God?

Is it a sign that God is not in the center of a Christian's musical worship life if he/she listens to secular music six days a week, but only desires to worship God with music once a week?
Anything good can take up so much heart or time that it can become an idol. The same with e.g. music or the visual arts, or whatever.

Of course if your job as part of the Creation Mandate is to be e.g. a musician or painter, it may not be idolatry to spend a lot of time on these things, just your job.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
E.g. God has created the beautiful sea. It is not forbidden to the Christian to paint it or write music that expresses its moods, but anything good can be an idol, even your wife, your family or your job.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Graduate
I think I read somewhere their fav genre of music was heavy metal :wink:
Might have been me....I am a prog. metal guy though. I have been watching this thread carefully. Now someone who likes today's pop is someone we should be careful of! :p
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
Reverend Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions Beethoven, among others, in his sermons. That in the context of comparing Paul's great epistles to symphonies with an overture encapsulating what would follow. I suppose he listened to what we call classical music and perhaps felt it was a gift from God.
It's good to know that. In what book/journal does Martyn Lloyd-Jones mention that?
 
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jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The puritans had a great love of beauty, and I suspect this would have guided their tastes in music. It is quite unlikely, outside of worship, that they would have made a distinction between secular and nonsecular music -- it either glorified God or it didn't. Keep in mind that music would have been performed, or sung over a pint. It would have been either folk or baroque. Many of the innovations we consider classical wouldn't have come until later. Given the amount of work required of all but a tiny fraction of the population, any form of music beyond whistling or humming would have been quite a treat.
 

JimmyH

Puritan Board Senior
Reverend Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions Beethoven, among others, in his sermons. That in the context of comparing Paul's great epistles to symphonies with an overture encapsulating what would follow. I suppose he listened to what we call classical music and perhaps felt it was a gift from God.
It's good to know that. In what book/journal does Martyn Lloyd-Jones mention that?
The question is in which of the hundreds of published volumes of his sermons/lectures did he mention that ? Took me a shorter time than I thought it would. Volume one of his sermons on The Epistle To The Ephesians, God's Ultimate Purpose. The Baker edition on page 36 preaching on Ephesians 1:2 'Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.' ;

Here at the very beginning , in this preliminary salutation, the Apostle plunges at once into the very depths of the profoundest truth and doctrine that is to be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Or, to state it in a different way, this verse is a kind overture to the entire Epistle. It is the characteristic of great pieces of music, certain types of music in particular, to have an overture. The musician starts by composing the main body of the work, which may have various movements or acts, each having its theme. Then, having finished the work, he goes back to the beginning and writes an overture in which he collects together the main motifs or themes that have emerged in the body of the work. He does so by throwing out a suggestion, perhaps in a few bars, to whet your appetite and in order that you may have some idea of what he is going to develop in the main body of the work.
He continues in the next paragraph but I have tendinitis in my right forearm and typing for any length of time is painful. You may listen to this particular sermon, and thousands more, on MLJtrust.org . Titled 'Grace; Peace; Glory (Volume 1 — #4003) Beginning at 6:30 into the sermon he expounds on this analogy in more depth than in the text I've copied exactly from the written sermon published in the book. http://www.mljtrust.org/collections/book-of-ephesians/

I'm pretty sure I've read, or heard, MLJ use this analogy in other sermons, but I cannot call to mind where I may have seen or heard it.:detective:
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I don't have Iain Murray's biography to hand, but I seem to recall him mentioning that Lloyd-Jones didn't much enjoy Bach. Otherwise, he had a long enthusiasm for classical music which didn't dissipate until close to his death. When somebody is talented and well-rounded they are able to take an intelligent interest in many things.

The Doctor also talks about someone expressing surprise that Karl Barth would listen to Mozart - but Lloyd-Jones understood that, because Mozart made Barth happy and put him in a mood to work.

There seems to have been a fair bit of amateur playing of music in London in the 1660s, but naturally with the expense of music teachers and purchasing scores the well-to-do were better situated to be able to enjoy that sort of thing.
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
Reverend Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentions Beethoven, among others, in his sermons. That in the context of comparing Paul's great epistles to symphonies with an overture encapsulating what would follow. I suppose he listened to what we call classical music and perhaps felt it was a gift from God.
It's good to know that. In what book/journal does Martyn Lloyd-Jones mention that?
The question is in which of the hundreds of published volumes of his sermons/lectures did he mention that ? Took me a shorter time than I thought it would. Volume one of his sermons on The Epistle To The Ephesians, God's Ultimate Purpose. The Baker edition on page 36 preaching on Ephesians 1:2 'Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.' ;

Here at the very beginning , in this preliminary salutation, the Apostle plunges at once into the very depths of the profoundest truth and doctrine that is to be found anywhere in the Scriptures. Or, to state it in a different way, this verse is a kind overture to the entire Epistle. It is the characteristic of great pieces of music, certain types of music in particular, to have an overture. The musician starts by composing the main body of the work, which may have various movements or acts, each having its theme. Then, having finished the work, he goes back to the beginning and writes an overture in which he collects together the main motifs or themes that have emerged in the body of the work. He does so by throwing out a suggestion, perhaps in a few bars, to whet your appetite and in order that you may have some idea of what he is going to develop in the main body of the work.
He continues in the next paragraph but I have tendinitis in my right forearm and typing for any length of time is painful. You may listen to this particular sermon, and thousands more, on MLJtrust.org . Titled 'Grace; Peace; Glory (Volume 1 — #4003) Beginning at 6:30 into the sermon he expounds on this analogy in more depth than in the text I've copied exactly from the written sermon published in the book. http://www.mljtrust.org/collections/book-of-ephesians/

I'm pretty sure I've read, or heard, MLJ use this analogy in other sermons, but I cannot call to mind where I may have seen or heard it.:detective:
Thank you Jimmy for taking the time to search for the sources :D
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
The Doctor also talks about someone expressing surprise that Karl Barth would listen to Mozart - but Lloyd-Jones understood that, because Mozart made Barth happy and put him in a mood to work.
Not only did Barth enjoy Mozart, but he wrote a book about him.

I don't have Iain Murray's biography to hand, but I seem to recall him mentioning that Lloyd-Jones didn't much enjoy Bach
That's a shame. Bach has had a profound impact on church music. His arranngements of German hymn tunes are still the standard for many of them.
 
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