This week's Melody Moment is a continuation of last week's post. Click here to read if you missed it!
A faithful student of the Word, Baptist preacher Benjamin Keach labored to bring his flock a biblical sermon each week. While studying the topic of music and singing, Keach realized that not only does the Bible not condemn congregational singing but wholeheartedly encourages believers to sing (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19, Psalm 100:1).
Armitage says, “He resolved to introduce singing into his church, cost what it might. But he met with great opposition; and as his was the first church amongst the Baptists to introduce singing, so far as now appears, it is interesting to know that it was first used at the Lord’s Supper about 1673 and confined to communion occasions for about six years. Then the practice was extended to days of public thanksgiving, which practice continued about fourteen years. After about twenty years the church, with some dissent, was persuaded to sing every Lord’s Day. But even then, the brethren agreed only to sing at the close of the prayer after the sermon; and so tender were they of the consciousness of the minority, that they passed a vote not to censure those who went out and stood in the chapel yard, if they could not conscientiously stay in and hear the singing. “
However, this made no difference as dissenters left to form their own tuneless church, some continuing their attacks from afar.
Believers from other churches hounded the man. Ministers from other regions began to write treatises against the heretic pastor. But Keach was a rare breed. A faithful minister, wholly convinced that the church was done a grave disservice, would not be shaken from fulfilling the word of God. With newfound freedom afforded by the dissenter’s departure from their local body, they resolved to “let their songs abound” and lifted their voices in worship each Lord’s Day. Keach began penning a hymn each week to correspond to his sermon.
But the fight was far from over.
His church was secure in biblical worship, but what about the others who still were chained against this liberty? Thus, the faithful minister took up his pen and wrote a treatise:
“The Breach Repaired in God’s Worship, or Singing of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs proved to be a holy ordinance of Jesus Christ.”
This book further incensed those stationed against him and they renewed their attacks, but the seed was already planted. The hearts of blood-bought saints long to sing of their Beloved, and they could not continue long in silence with the door thus opened.
In time, England found her voice. The pulpits burned with fresh fervor as the saints of various denominations again took up the practice of singing. In the coming years, the need for additional ‘Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs” of quality became apparent, and men such as Isaac Watts volunteered their talents to supply the lack. While Keach did not have the blessing of seeing the full fruit of his efforts, we trust that our Holy God has not failed to reward him for his service.
Below, "O Lord, 'Tis Matter of High Praise" from the pen of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704).
O let poor sinners feel their sin
Enlightened souls have cause to sing,
And now in robes, most richly decked,
We therefore throw our crowns below
All glory, pow’r, and praise to have,
Burrage, D.D., Henry S. Baptist Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, Brown and Thurston Company, 1888.
Armitage, D.D., Thomas. History of the Baptists, Bryan, Taylor, & Company, 1887.
Cathcart, D.D., William. Baptist Encyclopaedia, Louis H. Everts, 1881