One Baptist Church and 350 Years of Biblical Singing
May 28, 2024
Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061

The following is excerpted from Transforming Congregational Singing in the 21st Century,


The Metropolitan Tabernacle of London, England, has represented biblical, old Baptist style of congregational singing throughout its history. For more than 350 years, this church has practiced Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16.

The church began in the 1600s during the era of Anglican persecution of non-conformists.

“From some one of the many Baptist assemblies which met in the borough of Southwark out church took its rise. Crosby says: ‘This people had formerly belonged to one of the most ancient congregations of the Baptists in London, but separated from them in the year 1652, for some practices which they judged disorderly, and kept together from that time as a distinct body’” (Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work). 

The first pastor, in 1652, was William Rider. This was three years after the execution of King Charles I and a few months before Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth (16531658).

Benjamin Keach

Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) pastored the church from 1668 until his death. This was during the reigns of Charles II (1660-1665), James II (1685-1688), and William III (1688-1702), Prince of Orange and leader of the Glorious Revolution which desposed James II and returned Protestant power to England. The Toleration Act of 1689 and Bill of Rights largely ended persecution against “non-comformists.” Press censorship ended in 1695. William’s wife Anne reigned from 1702-1714.

Keach was raised in the Anglican Church but was baptized scripturally at age 15 and joined a Baptist church in Winslow, Buckinghamshire. He was commissioned to preach at age 18. 

In 1668, Keach moved to London and was called to the pastorate of the General Baptist church meeting on Tooley Street in Southwark, “London’s first suburb located on the south shore of the Thames river’ (Michael Haykin, Kiffen, Knollys, and Keach: Rediscovering Our English Baptist Heritage). When he converted to Calvinist theology in 1672, Keach and some of the members founded a Particular Baptist church in Horselydown, Southwark. This is the church that was subsequently pastored by Gill, Rippon, and Spurgeon. The church built its first chapel in 1688 and later moved to Carter Lane. Under Keach’s ministry, the church building was enlarged to seat 1,000.

Keach was persecuted both before and during his pastorate. “[H]e was thrown into a tortuous confinement. Keach endured fines, imprisonment, and, during one period of punishment, a daily two-hour stay in the village square in the pillory. Due to his writings, Keach was charged with being a seditious, heretical, and schismatical person’” (Joseph Carmichael, The Sung Theology of the English Particular Baptist Revival). “On one occasion the troopers swore that they would kill the preacher, and having bound him, threw him on the ground, with the determination to trample him to death with their horses. Their design was frustrated by the interposition of the commanding officer, and Keach was tied across a horse, and taken off to jail” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle). When he was 24, Keach published The Child’s Instructor, a catechism in which he taught that the right subjects for baptism are “believers, or godly men and women, who make profession of their faith and repentance.” He also taught that those who practice infant baptism err from the way of truth because “they make not God’s holy Word their rule, but do presume to open a door that Christ hath shut, and none ought to open.” For this “heresy,” he was jailed and his book was burned. 

Keach’s preaching was described as “intensely direct, solemn, and impressive, not flinching to declare the terrors of the Lord, nor veiling the freeness of divine grace” (Spurgeon, The History of Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Keach published 43 works in all, including Key to Open Scripture Metaphors and Exposition of the Parables. One of his most influential publications was a catechism, which was called Keach’s Catechism or the Baptist Catechism. It was published in 1693 for a General Assembly. 

Keach’s son-in-law, Thomas Crosby, authored The History of the English Baptists (1738).

Keach promoted hymn singing to Baptist churches in a day when the Protestants sang only Psalms and the General Baptists and some others did not practice any congregational singing. 

“[H]e was the first to introduce the regular singing of hymns into the normal worship of an English congregation. This he achieved only gradually, with great tact, and against considerable opposition. In 1673 he got his congregation to sing a hymn at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper, alleging the precedent of the ‘hymn' sung by our Lord and the disciples--which was almost certainly a Psalm. Six years later the church agreed to sing a hymn on ‘public thanksgiving days,’ and fourteen years after that, every Sunday; the whole operation thus taking twenty years” (Hugh Martin, “The Baptist Contribution to Early English Hymnody,” Baptist Quarterly, Jan. 1962).

In 1691, Keach published “Breach Repaired in God’s Worship; or, Singing of Psalms Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, proved to be an Holy Ordinance of Jesus Christ.” The next year, there was a “heated debate” on this subject in the Assembly of Particular Baptists.  

The issue was so controversial that it split the church, even though Keach was careful and wise about how he brought the change. When the majority of the Carter Lane church agreed to engage in congregational singing, a minority of 21 members departed and formed the Maze Pond Church. The church covenant stated that congregational singing was “a gross error equal with common national set form prayer,” referring to Anglican prayers. (This conviction didn’t last long. When the church called a new pastor, he refused to accept the call unless they agreed to sing hymns, and they fell in line with the very thing they had previously rejected.) 

Keach wrote several hymns and published two hymnbooks with a total of 400 hymns: Spiritual Melody (1691) and Spiritual Songs (1700). 

Keach wanted to instruct the church in sound doctrine. He referred to his hymns as “metrical doctrine” and “metrical sermons.”

His personal poetry and hymns weren’t of the highest quality, but we like his War with the Devil, in which we see his boldness for the truth and good understanding of church history  -

I never read of Peter’s triple crown,

Nor that he ever wore a Popish gown;

I never learn’d that he did Pope become,

Or rul’d o’er kings, like to the beasts of Rome,

I never learn’d he granted dispensations,

To poison kings or rulers of those nations

Who were profane, or turned heretics,

Or did refuse the faith of Catholics.

I read not that he’s called His Holiness,

Yet he’d as much as any Pope, I guess;

I never learn’d Peter did magnify

Himself above all gods, or God on high!

Or that upon the necks of kings he trod,

Or ever he in cloth of gold was clad;

I never read that he made laws to burn

Such as were heretics, and would not turn

To Jesus Christ, much less to murder those

Who did, in truth, idolatry oppose.

I never learn’d, nor could do, to this day,

That Pope and Peter walk’d both in one way;

Yea, or that they in anything accord,

Save only in denying of the Lord:

Peter deny’d him, yet did love him dear;

The Pope denies him, and doth hatred bear

To him, and to all those that do him love,

Who bear his image and are from above.

Peter deny’d him, and did weep amain,

The Pope denies him but with great disdain.

Peter deny’d him, yet for him did die,

The Pope in malice doth him crucify.

Peter deny’d him thrice, and then repented,

The Pope a thousand times, but ne’er relented.

Keach interpreted prophecy literally, believing that the Jews would be restored to their land at the end of the age and Christ would return and establish a literal millennial kingdom. 

Keach was a strong pastor who led and protected the flock. “The pastor was a power in the church, and by the weight of his mind and character directed it aright, so that troublers found it expedient to carry out their mission in some less consolidated community. He could also wax warm, and deliver his mind with vehemence, and then it was somewhat dangerous to be his opponent” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Like Paul, he trained preachers, including his own son, Elias. 

Keach experienced a miraculous healing in answer to prayer. “Mr Keach was of a very weak constitution, being often afflicted with illness, and once to such a degree that he was given over by the physicians; and several of the ministers, and his relations, had taken their leave of him as a dying man and past all hope of recovery; but the Rev Mr Hanserd Knollys, seeing his friend and brother in the gospel so near expiring, betook himself to prayer, and in a very extraordinary manner begged that God would spare him, and add unto his days the time he granted to his servant Hezekiah. As soon as he had ended his prayer, he said, ‘Brother Keach, I shall be in heaven before you,’ and quickly after left him. So remarkable was the answer of God to this good man’s prayer, that we cannot omit it; though it may be discredited by some, there were many who could bear incontestable testimony to the fact. Mr Keach recovered of that illness, and lived just fifteen years afterwards” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle).

Keach was followed by Benjamin Stinton, who pastored the church for 14 years (1704-1718) until his death at age 43.

John Gill

John Gill (1697-1771) pastored the church at Carter Lane from 1719 to his death in 1771. This was during the reigns of George I (1714-1727), George II (1727-1760), and George III (1760-1811). It was the era of the First Great Awakening (1730-1755), which had a powerful spiritual and moral impact on England. The Methodist Church was founded in 1739 by John and Charles Wesley. Handel’s Messiah was first performed in 1742. George Whitefield made seven preaching tours of America, visiting all 13 colonies. Baptists were imprisoned and whipped by Protestant authorities in Virginia (1768-1774).

Gill wrote the recommendatory preface to Hymns Composed on Several Subjects by Richard Davis (1748). It had 167 hymns. 

Like Keach, John Gill interpreted prophecy literally to the extent that he believed in a return of the Jews to the land and the establishment of Christ’s literal, earthly millennial kingdom. In his introduction to Ezekiel 37, Gill wrote, “This chapter contains a prophecy of the Jews’ return from captivity to their own land; of the union of the each tribes with one another; and of the glorious kingdom of Christ among them.” 

Gill’s commentary of the Bible was published in 1746-48.. It was packed with helpful thoughts, but also contained a lot of nonsense that Gill picked up from the Hebrew Talmud. 

Gill’s overall influence on the Baptists was not good, owing to his “High Calvinism.” 

“J. Morden says that fundamental to High Calvinism ‘was the belief that the unconverted were under no moral obligation to repent and believe the gospel, because total depravity rendered them incapable of doing so, and they could not justly be held accountable for doing what in reality they were completely unable to do” (Peter J. Morden, The Life and Thought of Andrew Fuller, 2015).

“John Ryland, Jr., the pastor of Broadmead Church, Bristol, and the principal of Bristol Baptist Academy writing in 1816, stated that through the influence of Gill and [John] Brine the opinion ‘spread pretty much among ministers of the Baptist denomination’ that ‘it is not the duty of the unregenerate to believe in Christ.’ ... When Gill’s thinking about faith and evangelism was pondered and acted upon by his fellow Baptist preachers, it was invariably his High Calvinism that was their lodestar. These preachers thus refrained from urging upon the lost their responsibility to embrace Christ and to trust in him alone for their salvation” (A.G. Haykin, One Heart and One Soul: John Sutcliff of Olney).

Gill pastored the church for 52 years, but he pastored beyond his effectual ability.

“He outlived his usefulness, and it was a wonderful instance of divine care over the church that the old gentleman did not do it serious injury. He retained the will to govern after the capacity was gone, and he held his power over the pulpit though unable to occupy it to profit. Supplies who came to preach for him were not always allowed to officiate, and when they did, the old minister’s remarks from his pew were frequently more quaint than agreeable” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work). 

After the death of Gill, John Fawcett, a prominent hymn writer of that era, was called to pastor the church at Carter Lane. He had pastored a small, poor Baptist church in Wainsgate in West Yorkshire for seven years. After he accepted the call, preached his farewell sermon, and with the wagons loaded for the relocation, the congregation so fervently and tearfully begged him to stay that he cancelled his plans and remained in Wainsgate the rest of his life. He gave up a large ministry for a humble ministry in a small church in a small place. His annual salary was only 25 pounds He wrote the hymn “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds” to commemorate that event.

John Rippon

John Rippon (1751-1836) pastored the church at Carter Lane for 63 years (1773 to 1836). In 1833, the church moved to New Park Street. 

This was during the reigns of George III (1760-1811), George IV (1820-1830), and William IV (1830-1837). The American War of Independence was fought (1776-1783). The French Revolution lasted from 1787-1799. The modern missionary movement was launched, with William Carey becoming England’s first missionary in 1792 and Adoniram Judson America’s first foreign missionary in 1816. In 1800, the United Kingdom was created by the merger of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1803, America made the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon. The 828,000 square miles nearly doubled the size of the new nation. In 1804, the British & Foreign Bible Society launched the great global Bible society movement. In 1806, Meriweather Lewis and William Clark completed their survey the American West. The first steam locomotive was invented in 1814, the world’s first railway line opened in 1825, photography was invented in 1827, the telegraph in 1838. 

Rippon graduated from Bristol Baptist College at age 20 and was called to the pastorate at Carter Lane two years later. He was first called to candidate while still a student, but there was some resistance by older members who were accustomed to under John Gill’s super sober ministry.

“Mr. John Rippon was sent to them. He was a youth of some twenty summers, of a vivacious temperament, quick and bold. The older members judged him to be too young, and too flighty; they even accused him of having gone up the pulpit stairs two steps at a time on some occasion when he was hurried--a grave offence for which the condemnation could hardly be too severe” (Charles Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work). 

Rippon rejected his predecessor’s “high Calvinism,” believed in the universal offer of the gospel, saw spiritual revival in his own church and beyond, and was at the forefront of a great revival of hymn singing among Baptists. All of these things were interconnected. A revival of strong theology--with Christ’s eternal Sonship, incarnation, vicarious atonement, resurrection, and ascension at its heart--prayer, gospel preaching, holiness, and missionary vision, go hand-in-hand with effectual hymn singing. These are all products of an unrestricted move of the Spirit. 

“Leading a notable London congregation in the midst of the spiritual renewal of his denomination, Rippon offered two novel contributions to the reviving of the Particular Baptist community: a denominational hymnbook that supplemented Watts to ‘provide a comprehensive resource for the homiletical bias of Baptist worship.’ and the publication of his Baptist Annual Register (1790-1802), which ‘not only provided a unique expression of the denomination’s new maturity and confidence but also promoted a deeper mutual awareness among Baptists.’ During the five decades following these two ventures by Rippon, the Particular Baptist denomination grew from about 17,000 members in 1790 to 86,000 by 1838, an increase exceeding population growth” (Joseph Carmichael, The Sung Theology of the English Particular Baptist Revival).

The Baptist Annual Register was “a periodical containing an account of the most important events in the history of the Baptist Denomination in Great Britain and America during that period.” It is immensely important for Baptist research.

Under Rippon’s ministry, the church experienced spiritual revival. It was fruitful in salvations and in raising up preachers. 

“Many souls were won to Jesus by his teaching, and out of these a remarkable number became themselves ministers of the gospel. The church-book abounds with records of brethren preaching before the church, as the custom was in those days” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work).

Rippon was the first President of the Baptist Union (1812), the same Union from which Charles Spurgeon withdrew 75 years later. 

In 1792, the Baptist College of Providence, Rhode Island, bestowed upon Rippon a Doctor of Divinity degree.

As we have seen, Rippon was a graduate of the Bristol Baptist Academy, which was a powerful force for “evangelical Calvinist revival.” The Academy was the vision of Edward Terrill, who deeded a large gift to be used “for the support of a minister at Broadmead who was skilled in the Biblical languages and whose task would be to prepare young men for ministry among Baptist churches” (Hayden, Continuity and Change, p. 21).

Baptist preachers associated with this academy included John Ash, John and Benjamin Beddome, Benjamin Francis, Andrew Gifford, John Sutcliff, John Fawcett, Joshua Thomas, Robert Hall (author of Help to Zion’s Travellers, 1781), Hugh Evans, and Caleb Evans. Many of these men engaged in a monthly prayer for revival.

These men’s “devotional hymnology, passion for associating, and evangelistic initiatives helped divert many churches from high Calvinism and introduced them to these influences which were powerfully at work in the Evangelical Revival” (Raymond Brown, The English Baptists of the Eighteenth Century). 

Bristol Academy-associated men were at the forefront of a great missionary enterprise, chiefly the preacher/scholar Andrew Fuller and the autodidact cobbler William Carey. In 1785, Fuller published The Gospel of Christ Worthy of All Acceptation. This has been called “the shot that provoked the army onto the field of battle.” In 1792, Carey published An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christian, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. This has been called “the manifesto of the modern missionary movement.” Fuller and Carey and others formed the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792, and Carey was the society’s first missionary, departing for India in 1793. 

In 1769, the Bristol Baptist Academy published A Collection of Hymns Adapted to Public Worship which contained 412 hymns, including many by Isaac Watts. This was a ground-breaking Baptist hymnal. It was called the Bristol Collection for its association with the Academy. It was edited by John Ash (1724-1779) and Caleb Evans (1737-1791), who were influential in the Baptist awakening. 

John Rippon published a hymnal in 1787 popularly called Rippon’s Selection. (The full title was A selection of Hymns from the best authors, intended as an Appendix to Dr. Watts' Psalms and Hymns.) It contained 588 psalms and hymns, This hymnal eventually replaced the Bristol Collection. Spurgeon called it “the first really good selection of hymns for dissenting congregations.”

Rippon’s Selection was designed to facilitate the ministry of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 pertaining to edifying congregation singing. All of the selections were doctrinally solid and weighty and spiritually challenging. There was no fluff! The tunes were designed to be easily sung by an ordinary congregation of redeemed saints.

Rippon authored some of the hymns, but since he didn’t identify himself as author, only a few of them can be ascribed to him for certain. Among these are “The Say Has Dawned, Jehovah Comes,” “Amid the Splendours of Thy State,” and “There is Joy in Heaven, and Joy on Earth.” Rippon added three stanzas to “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” originally written by Edward Perronet in 1780. 

Rippon wrote hymns to be sung after his Sunday sermon to reinforce the preaching and to further educate the congregation on theology. He said, “Singing is not only sweet and raising to the Spirit, but also full of instruction.” These old Baptists paid far more attention on the use of hymns for theological education than the vast majority of modern Baptists do. 

Rippon’s Selection included Isaac Watts’ psalms. Rippon was considered the foremost authority on Watts’ hymns. In 1801, he published a comprehensive edition of Watts entitled An Arrangement of the Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D.D. The 718 Watts’ hymns were arranged by subject. This is online at

Rippon’s Selection went through 11 editions in Rippon’s lifetime, 30 editions altogether. An edition was published in America in 1820. It was so popular that it was called the “unofficial hymnbook for Baptist Churches.” By 1827, it had already been distributed in over 200,000 copies in England and more than 100,000 in America. 

An expanded edition published in 1844 was entitled The Comprehensive Edition, popularly called The Comprehensive Rippon. It contained more than 1,170 hymns in 100 meters. 

This hymnal was loaded with great treasures. Not only did it include hymns by Isaac Watts (40), but also by Anne Steele (53), Samuel Stennett (39), Benjamin Beddome (36), William Cowper (8), John Needham (19), Philip Doddridge (91), John Fawcett (23), Augustus Toplady (15), John Newton (25), Thomas Gibbons (27), Charles Wesley (21), and many others. (For this tabulation, we used the 1804 edition.)

Rippon also published hymn tunes collected from a wide variety of sources. The first was A Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes from the Best Authors, 1791. It contained “in a greater variety than any other volume extant, the most approved compositions which are used in London, and in the different congregations throughout England” and “many original tunes never before printed.” There were more than 300 tunes. Rippon’s tune book included the most extensive use of marks of music expression and tempo that had yet appeared in hymnals, such as p. (piano, soft), ff. (forte, loud), ff. (fortississimo, extremely loud), cres. (crescendo, gradual increase in volume), dim. (diminuendo, a gradual decrease in volume), grave, lively, solemn, brisk, etc. Rippon is said to be “the first person to compile, on an extensive scale, a book of tunes with a comprehensive hymn book suitable for the devotional exercises of religious worship” (Herbert Skeats, History of the Free Churches).

Rippon pastored the church for 63 years, but like his predecessor he kept control of the pastorate well beyond when he was effectual. Though he was not able to preach the last three years of his pastorate, he did not retire. As a result the church suffered.

“He outlived his usefulness, and it was a wonderful instance of divine care over the church that the old gentleman did not do it serious injury. He retained the will to govern after the capacity was gone, and he held his power over the pulpit though unable to occupy it to profit. Supplies who came to preach for him were not always allowed to officiate, and when they did, the old minister’s remarks from his pew were frequently more quaint than agreeable” (Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle: Its History and Work).

This type of thing has happened too many times. The church was without a permanent pastor for 17 years after Rippon’s death and declined much in membership and spiritual zeal. The revival would come under young Spurgeon’s ministry.

Charles Spurgeon

Rippon was followed at New Park Street Baptist Church by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), who pastored the church from 1853 to his death in 1892. 

Spurgeon’s pastorate fell within the Victorian Age (Queen Victoria I, 1837-1901), a time of great change. The industrial revolution was in full bloom. The Great Exhibition of 1851, attended by six million, showcased the world’s most advanced inventions. It was the brainchild of Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. The Bessemer process of making steel revolutionized construction. The British Raj began in 1858; Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1876. The London underground opened in 1863. Joseph Lister’s discovery of disinfectant in 1867 revolutionized the medical field. The Suez Canal linked the Mediterranean and the Red Sea in 1869. The telephone was invented in 1876, the steam turbine in 1884, the pneumatic tire in 1887. The first electric lights appeared in London in 1877. The Victorian Age witnessed the birth of Darwinian evolution and Marxism and the rapid spread of theological modernism and Unitarianism. It was a time of great wars and revolutions, as well as spiritual revivals. 

In 1861, the name of the New Park Street Baptist Church was changed to the Metropolitan Tabernacle when it moved to its new building at Elephant & Castle. It seated 5,000, with standing room for another 1,000. 

Like Rippon, Spurgeon took the ministry of singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs seriously and was careful about the selections and every aspect of the congregational singing. 

Spurgeon loved hymns. He collected hymnals. (I saw his collection in the Spurgeon Library at William Jewel College in the 1990s; it has since relocated to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.) He wrote hymns. He studied hymns. He used hymns in his private devotions. He used hymns to instruct and edify his congregation. He taught them new hymns. He only wanted hymns of theological accuracy and richness. He was on the outlook for rich hymns fitting for this purpose.

In 1866, Spurgeon published an enlargement and update of Rippon’s hymnal called Our Own Hymn Book: A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Public, Social, and Private Worship. It featured hundreds of carefully-chosen hymns plus metrical arrangements of all 150 Psalms. There are psalms from Isaac Watts, the Scottish Psalter, Tate and Brady, Henry Lyte, Harriet Auber, Charles Wesley, Richard Mant, John Beaumont, Anne Steele, Augustus Toplady, John Newton, John Ryland, James Montgomery, Edward Osler, John Milton, George Burgess, Joseph Addison, Josiah Conder, William Kethe, Robert Allen Scott, Joseph Irons, William Bathhurst, James Merrick, Thomas Shernhold, William Goode, Joseph Irons, and 12 by Spurgeon (Psalm 15, 39, 44, 53, 58, 60, 70, 82, 83, 111, 112, 120).

Spurgeon said in the Preface, 

“We thought it best to issue a selection which would contain the cream of the books already in use among us, together with the best of all others extant up to the hour of going to press; and having sought a blessing upon the project, we set about it with all our might, and at last have brought it to a conclusion. Our best diligence has been given to the work, and we have spared no expense.”

In Spurgeon’s day, congregational singing at Metropolitan Tabernacle was strictly a cappella. 

Spurgeon loved congregational singing and oftentimes led the congregation. He loved rich hymns drawn from the pages of Scripture. He said the Bible is a book “whose every leaf is of untold value” and if rightly interpreted will produce “matchless music.” He said from “every promise will spring a sonnet.” 

He believed that the foremost objective of congregational singing is worship. “The whole revelation of God is the condensed essence of praise.” He called congregational singing “united adoration.” He despised heartless singing, calling it “insults to heaven.” He said, “Fine music without devotion is but a splendid garment upon a corpse.”

In 1881, Spurgeon preached on “Singing in the ways of the Lord.” He began by quoting Psalm 138:4, “All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth.” In his inimitable way, he then noted that most kings have not praised the Lord in this present earthly system, but a new system is coming when all of the kings of the earth will indeed praise the Lord, and in the mean time the humble saints of the churches can praise the Lord. 

“It will be a novel spectacle to see kings singing in the ways of the Lord. As a rule they have not much troubled themselves therewith, but they have often troubled those who love the ways of God, and opposed them, both by their laws and by their example. There will be another order of things in the earth yet. These days will be shortened for the elect’s sake, and the time shall come when kings shall fall down before the King of kings, and all people shall call Jesus blessed. Oh that the time may speedily arrive when a choir of kings shall with loud voice magnify the name of the Lord. Well, dear brethren, that time has not come yet, and therefore let us sing all the more. If the kings have not begun to sing, let us sing. And well we may. We have full permission to do it, for the next verse encourages us—‘Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly.’ He will be just as pleased with the song of the peasant as with that of the prince, with the psalm of the workman as with that of the monarch. We, too, may come, though obscure and unknown, and we may bring our two mites which make a farthing; and if they are all the praise our soul can give, the Lord will count that we have not given less than kings themselves. Let us make up for royal silence. If others cannot praise God, and speak well of his name, yet let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed out of the hand of the enemy” (Spurgeon, Aug.11, 1881, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 27). 

Spurgeon saw congregational singing as an important teaching tool. “There is no teaching that is likely to be more useful than that which is accompanied by the right kind of singing” (cited from “United Adoration,” Nov. 11, 2020, 

Following is the description of the congregational singing in Spurgeon’s day: 

“The singing was almost overpowering. When that ocean of people rose and sung, ‘Grace, ’tis a charming sound,’ it seemed as if the windows of heaven were opened. This seemed like worshiping God, like making melody in the heart unto the Lord. How unlike this is an organ and a choir, making music for a sitting, silent congregation” (Eugenio Kincaid). 

“Mr. Spurgeon evidently takes delight in the service of song, and is anxious above all things that every man, woman, and child in the place should sing. In announcing the hymn he generally makes some remark, such as, ‘Let us sing joyfully the 48th Psalm,’ – ‘Dear friends, this hymn is full of joy, let’s sing it with all our hearts,’ &c.” (J.S. Curwen, Studies in Worship Music, 1880). 

Spurgeon would say, “Pull out the stops of your organ, and let the music fly abroad.” 

He taught the brethren to sing “heartily as unto the Lord; not with our voices only, but with our very souls.”

Spurgeon recommended the sol-fa system, because he wanted to see the entire congregation trained in hymn singing. Note the following instruction to song leaders:

“Not only ought all the worshippers to sing, but each one should sing praises with understanding, and as David says, ‘play skilfully’ unto the Lord. This cannot be effected except by instructing the people in public psalmody. Is it not your duty to institute classes for young and old? Might you not thus most effectually serve the church, and please the Lord? The method of Mr. Curwen, and the use of his Sol-fa Notation, will much aid you in breaking ground, and you can in after years either keep to the new method, or turn to the old notation as may seem best to you. Thousands have learned to sing who were hopelessly silent until the sol-fa system was set on foot. The institution of singers, as a separate order is an evil, a growing evil, and ought to be abated and abolished; and the instruction of the entire congregation is the readiest, surest, and most scriptural mode of curing it. A band of godless men and women will often instal themselves in a conspicuous part of the chapel, and monopolise the singing to the grief of the pastor, the injury of the church, and the scandal of public worship; or else one man, with a miserable voice, will drag a miserable few after him in a successful attempt to make psalms and hymns hideous, or dolorous. Teach the lads and lasses, and their seniors, to run up and down the Sol-fa Modulator, and drill them in a few good, solid, thoroughly musical tunes, and you, O sons of Asaph, shall earn to yourself a good degree” (Spurgeon, “How Shall We Sing?” The Sword & the Trowel, June 1, 1870).

(For two of Spurgeon’s own hymns, see the chapter “A Treasure Chest of Little Known Hymns.” Spurgeon’s hymns are “Behold, O Lord, My Days Are Made” and “Make Haste, O God, My Soul to Bless.”)

Peter Masters

Under the leadership of Peter Masters (since 1970), Metropolitan Tabernacle uses the same sacred music it used in Spurgeon’s day, with additions representing the same theological depth and sacred style, avoiding a contemporary sound by biblical conviction and with clear understanding and purpose. 

The 1991 edition of the Tabernacle’s Psalms & Hymns of Reformed Worship. This hymnal includes metrical renditions of all 150 psalms plus hymn The 1991 edition of the Tabernacle’s Psalms & Hymns of Reformed Worship has metrical renditions of all 150 psalms plus hymns by Isaac Watts (166 counting his metrical psalms), Charles Wesley (102), John Newton (41), Henry Lyte (23), James Montgomery (22), Philip Doddridge (19), Francis Havergal (16), William Cowper (14), August Toplady (14), Horatius Bonar (14), Thomas Kelly (12), Charlotte Elliott (9), Anne Steele (9), Harriet Auber (9), John Ryland (6), Nahum Tate (6), Charles Spurgeon (4), and many others. The hymnal is heavy on the hymn writers of the 18th and early 19th century and very light on the later 19th century. For example, there are only 3 hymns by Philip Bliss and 2 by Fanny Crosby.

The music edition, which is published separately, has 472 tunes old and new. 

The singing is accompanied by an organ. Everything is focused on the lyrics and edification and singing from the heart to God and to one another, which is biblical worship. The service is conducted in a serious demeanor; there is no flippancy. It is the opposite of the revivalist approach. We don’t agree with the Tabernacle’s “sovereign election” Calvinism--not even their evangelistic, “non-hyper” brand of it--but Baptists today could learn a lot from John Keach and his heirs about congregational singing. 

We urge churches to sing the Psalms as God commands and to continually expand their repertoire of hymns and spiritual songs to include an ever-increasing number of those of challenging theological depth. 

Metropolitan Tabernacle congregational singing -

For more about the Metropolitan Tabernacle, see -

“Metropolitan Tabernacle, London” in The History and Heritage of Fundamentalism and Fundamental Baptists,

“Spurgeon’s Pastor’s College Yesterday and Today”


This report is excerpted from Transforming Congregational Singing in the 21st Century,

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