Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tennis in Worship

Puritans in general were opposed to antiphonal or responsive reading and singing in public worship. This practice found in Anglican churches to which they objected they likened to, in the words of John Cotton, "Tennisse Plaie." Along with the use of organs in worship, and other ceremonial trappings, Puritans saw antiphonal or responsive reading and singing as a mark of confusion and not edification.

John Field in A View of Popish Abuses (1572) lists as his 13th Anglican abuse:

In all their order of service there is no edification, according to the rule of the Apostle, but confusion, they tosse the Psalmes in most places like tennice balles....As for organes and curious singing, thoughe they be proper to popishe dennes, I meane to Cathedral churches, yet some others also must have them. The queenes chappell, and these churches must be paternes and presidents to the people, of all superstitions.

A confession of faith written by Field while imprisoned at Newgate in December 4, 1572 includes:

Concerning singing of psalms, we allow of the people’s joining with one voice in plain tune, but not of tossing the psalms from one side to the other, with the intermingling of organs

The Puritan authors of A Request of all true Christians to the Honorable House of Parliament (1586) wrote :

That all Cathedral churches may be put down, where the service of God is greviously abused by piping with organs, singing, ringing, and trowling of psalms from one side of the choir to another, with the squeaking of chauting choristers, disguised (as are all the rest) in white surplices; some in corner caps and filthy copes, imitating the fashion and manner of antichrist the pope, that man of sin and child of perdition, with his other rabble of miscreants and shavelings.

Increase Mather, A Brief Discourse Concerning the Unlawfulness of the Common Prayer Worship (1686) described Anglican worship services as consisting of:

broken Responds and shreds of Prayer which the Priests and People toss between them like Tennis Balls

Horton Davies, The Worship of the English Puritans, p. 68, explains the Puritan rationale:

Moreover, the responses of the people were stigmatized as 'vain repetitions' because of their reduplications. The Puritans frequently cited I Cor. xiv. 16 as a proof that only one person should speak at once, which appeared to them to veto congregational responses, with the single exception of the word Amen.[*]
It was felt therefore that all responds or responsive reading ('the tossing to and fro of tennis balls') was prohibited by the Word of God.

[*] Further to the view that normally (excepting extraordinary vows, and apart from congregational singing, and the congregation's "amen" at the end of a ministerial prayer or sermon) only the minister should be speaking during public worship, see Thomas Cartwright, The Reply to the Answer of the Admonition, Chap. 2, 21st Division, Sec. 2, p. 109:

For God hath ordained the minister to this end, that, as in public meetings he only is the mouth of the Lord from him to the people, even so he ought to be the only the mouth of the people from them unto the Lord, and that all the people should attend to that which is said by the minister, and in the end both declare their consent to that which is said, and their hope that it should so be and come to pass which is prayed, by the word "Amen;" as St Paul declareth in the epistle to the Corinthians, and Justin Martyr sheweth to have been the custom of the churches in his time.

And also, William Gouge, The Sabbath's Sanctification, pp. 3-4:

Question 11. What duties are done by the people?
(4.) Saying "amen" audibly to the blessing.
As for an audible pronouncing of "amen," if the minds of them that pronounce it have been upon that which the minister uttered, and their hearts have given consent thereto, it compriseth altogether as much as the minister hath uttered. This is the only warrantable means for people to utter their minds in a congregation. It must, therefore, be uttered by everyone, altogether, so loud, as the minister may hear their consent, as well as they hear what he hath uttered in their name. For the one is as requisite as the other.

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