Maurice A. Meredith
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INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN THE WORSHIP
Ever since the founding of the church by Christ and the apostles, the subject of authority has been a perplexing problem. No era has been without those who have added to the Word of God. The first departure from the purity and simplicity of the apostolic faith was to alter the New Testament system of church government, which eventually resulted in the formation of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Then, the apostle's doctrine was adulterated with paganisms and fragments of Judaism.
The question of authority is a perennial bloomer. All recognise there is a line, should one go beyond it they have departed from the word of God. But most folks draw the circle large enough to include whatever error they wish to practice.
The wrong View
The trouble here is in believing that one of us mortals has the right to draw that line. Permit me to say that God, and God alone, can estimate sin and tell us when we are in the wrong. Love for God means utter loyalty to His word, without deviation, nor variation - - addition, nor subtraction. Nadab and Abihu thought it no horrible deed - - nor seems it - - to bring strange fire upon the altar of Jehovah. Yet their doom rings in our ears as a fair warning.
It is not my desire to magnify the issue. I recognize that instrumental music is not the great issue. It is only a small symptom of a great disease. The real issue is respect for divine authority. For example, our contention with the Roman Catholic church is not over whether they use instrumental music or not. We simply deny that the Pope has any authority to change any teaching found in the New Testament. This is the challenge that we present to every Protestant body; in denying to their human creeds any respect from an authoritative standpoint. We deny to any man the right of binding anything not bound by Christ and the apostles; whether that be written into a book, like "Science and Health," the Book of Mormon, the Baptist Manual, or Methodist Discipline; or an oral tradition that is bound on the church, as instrumental music and the missionary society are bound on the Christian churches.
It took hundreds of years for the Catholic church to find out they could use instrumental music. The same is true of Protestant churches. It was a long way this side of the reformers before it was adopted into Protestant worship. Those reformers charged men and women with the solemn obligation to respect Christ and His authority. When people began to relax that attitude toward divine authority, then errors began to be slowly adopted. When they found they could adopt one thing, that meant another and another could be brought in by the same gate. There is no stopping place.
A century ago the church of Christ and the Christian church were united on the plea, "Where the Scriptures speak we will speak, where they are silent we will be silent." Now, the Christian church does not believe that. Jesse R. Kellems, an outstanding preacher of the Christian church, says that we have the thing turned around. He says we ought to have said: "Where the Scriptures speak we will be silent, and where the Scriptures are silent, we may speak." ("The Deity of Jesus," p.140). What Mr. Kellems means to say is that we will have anything in the church that is not condemned. He insists there is no command that says we shall not use it. We will see, later, how such a command is not needed, but I would like to suggest just here that there is no command that says, "Thou shalt not kiss the Pope's big toe," nor one that says, "Thou shalt not burn incense," or "fall down before the image of some saint," nor, "Thou shalt not sprinkle babies."
To my knowledge, no one has yet found the verse in the New Testament that teaches us to make music with some mechanical instrument. There are three ways in which the Bible teaches anything:
1. A direct command,
2. An approved example, or
3 A necessary inference
In all that has been written by the advocates of instrumental music, not once has a writer ever been able to place it under any one of these three. Generally, they don't concern themselves with trying to do so, but say, "Yes, but I like it." It is this reckless attitude toward divine authority that has brought perilous times upon the Christian church. Today they are faced with a split over their humanisms. The conservative element want only instrumental music, and the liberals want everything that's going. The latter group being the more consistent and more popular group of the two.* (*See "Further Unscriptural Practises of the Christian Church," p. 18. ).
The most recent attempt that I have heard of to justify instrumental music (and it can hardly be called a serious one), is to ignore everything that has to do with proof-texts, and assert that instrumental music does not even enter into the worship - it is only an aid to worship. Such a dodge is hardly worthy of Bible students. It is a modern adaptation of the age old argument for images in the worship. The pagan and the Catholic tell us that the image has nothing to do with the worship, as it is just an aid to worship.
Are We Under the Old Law?
Generally, there is no attempt to find it in the New Testament. Refuge is sought in the Old Covenant. The easiest way out, of course, is to find that David commanded it in the Psalms. All of which is quite true, and we will find that David also commanded dancing in the same worship: "Praise him with the timbrel and dance" (Psalm 150:4), and "let them praise him in the dance" (149:3). On this latter verse, Rabbi Solomon Freehop says, "Dancing was widely used among ancient peoples as a religious ceremonial . . . In the post-exilic community dancing was part of the celebration of at least one festival." He goes on to refer to Miriam's and David's dances as being part of their religious ceremony (Jewish Commentary, p.412). Therefore, that Christian church, in Columbia, Missouri, which, in their worship, had girls dancing in the pulpit (according to the Associated Press dispatch for March 11, 1935), was at least consistent.
The Gem of Consistency
To be more consistent yet, we should not hesitate to practice polygamy. David and Solomon had a plurality of wives. Oh, I know, God said a man should be the husband of one wife, but he never said he couldn't be the husband of two or three. Some insist that since God has never said, "Thou shalt not play an instrument," they can have it. The same line of reasoning is used by the Mormon who argues that God never said "Thou shalt not marry two or more wives." Therefore, their polygamy is just as scriptural as instrumental music. Anything that will prove one, will prove the other.
To respect the authority of God's Word means to respect its silence. By this we mean that God tells us to sing, but does not tell us to play an instrument. He tells us that a man can marry one wife, but does not tell us we can marry a hundred. He tells us to baptize believers, but does not tell us we can sprinkle infants.
We should remember that there was no specific command that told Nadab and Abihu that they were not to offer strange fire upon the altar of God. Yet, when they came bringing strange fire, the wrath of God broke forth upon them and they were struck dead (Lev. 10:1-3). Moses' observation of the matter, as expressed to Aaron, the father of Nadab and Abihu, was that his sons had failed to sanctify God in their hearts. For us to do anything simply because it is not condemned in the Bible is but to confess a symptom of the same disease of soul that possessed Nadab and Abihu.
Why Take One and Leave Three?
There are many dear souls who love good music, and believe this love should allow them to use it. And who is there that does not like good music? No one would question that music is enjoyable. But the question is whether or not our esthetical tastes are to be the criteria of acceptable Christian worship. Most people like the odour of burning incense. Does this mean that it is all right with God, and to be used in accompanying our prayers? Roast beef and roast lamb were used in Old Testament worship, and all might enjoy one or the other. Would one dare to suppose that either would be all right on the Lord's Table? All three of these, as well as polygamy and dancing, were used under the Old Testament, but it seems strange that while some professed Christians will take one, and others another, yet none will take all five and incorporate them into Christian service and worship. One can be no more scriptural nor more unscriptural than any of the other four.
"God Gave and God Took Away"
God gave the Jews instrumental music (II Chron. 29:25), but He later took it away (Amos 5:23, 6:1-6).He also gave them a king, and later took him away (cf., Hosea 13:10). Which would only go to show that in certain circumstances God simply tolerated some things under a temporary covenant until Christ should come in the fullness of time, presenting the way of absolute truth. Many of the laws were only relatively good under the old economy. Jesus said that Moses made divorce easy because the people were unable to grasp the true concept of the marriage relationship (Matt. 19:8), and so it was with much else. God simply tolerated some things until He could bring man around to His point of view on some more vital points of issue.
Not Found Prior to David
No one has been able to find a trace of instrumental music in Jewish worship previous to the time of David, or about 1000 B.C. For three thousand years, then, God was worshipped without it. And while He tolerated it for a while, yet He removed it long before He ever gave us the New Covenant. In fact, it was only permitted for about three hundred years, until the time of its removal by the prophet Amos. It has not been used in the orthodox Hebrew synagogue since.
Used in the Tabernacle
There are some who insist that as instrumental music was used in the tabernacle, and since this was a type of the church, we ought to have it in the church. It is well that we look at this argument, as it certainly has its points. First of all, we admit, with the major part of Bible scholars, that the tabernacle was a type of the church - - at least, the holy place signified the church. By the same token, the most holy place, or holy of holies, typified heaven; and the outer court was a type of the world.
Now the question arises as to just where the use of these instruments was located? An examination of the Scriptures will prove that they were used in the outer court (cf., II Chron. 29:25-29). Now, since they were present in the outer court, then; they are precisely where they belong, today, in leaving them in the world, and not bringing them into the church. They have no place in the church any more than they belonged in the holy place. "And the court which is without the temple leave without;" says the apostle John, "for it hath been given unto the Gentiles." Revelation 11:2).
Can a Type Typify Itself?
Even though an investigation should show that these instruments were used in the holy place - - and for argument's sake, we will just say that they were - - what can they typify in the church? Can a type ever typify itself? If there is a case of any type ever representing itself, it has escaped my attention. Instrumental music can no sooner typify itself than animal sacrifice or any other shadow is able to. Incense on the altar was a type of the prayers of Christians, as it wafted its sweet odour into the holy of holies. The lampstand with its seven-fold light, portrays the church as it upholds the perfect light of God's revelation (cf., Rev. 1:20b).
A Scholarly Reformer
In this connection we would like to introduce a statement from John Calvin on instrumental music: "It is no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of tapers, or revival of other shadows of the law. The papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this as well as many other things from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise, but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles, is far more pleasing to Him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints, only in a known tongue (I Cor. 14:16). What shall we say of this which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?" "We know that our Lord Jesus Christ has appeared, and by His advent has abolished these legal shadows. Instrumental music, therefore, we maintain, was only tolerated on account of the times and the people, because they were as boys, as the sacred Scripture speaketh, whose condition required these puerile rudiments. But in gospel times we must not have recourse to these unless we wish to destroy the evangelical perfection and to obscure the meridian light which we enjoy in Christ our Lord." (Calvin's Commentaries, on Psalms 33, and I Samuel 15).
The Woe of Amos
That the prophet Amos condemned the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of God, has always been the understanding of the Orthodox Jew. God told Israel: "Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols." (Amos 5:23). This language would certainly suggest that the objectionable feature of Israel's worship in song was the instrumental accompaniment. This is further confirmed by a study of the first six verses of the succeeding chapter (Amos 6:1-6). Here the prophet pronounced a woe against no less than five things:
1. Defrauding the poor; thinking the day of reckoning was afar off.
2. Giving themselves up to luxurious living.
3. Singing idle songs, with an evil inclination.
4. Using instrumental music in the worship, as David did.
5. Drinking large quantities of wine.
The fourth of these woes is the one to which we wish to direct your attention - - "Woe to them . . . that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." It cannot be said that David simply invented the instrument, since this was done by Jubal-Cain (Gen. 4:21). David simply introduced them into the worship of God, or invented this use of them. Their appropriation in worship originated with David, and not before. It is even quite probable that this introduction into the worship of Jehovah may have been suggested by their use in the worship of heathen deities. The action of such music on human nature would certainly be in keeping with the other forms of expression as found in pagan worship.
In speaking of this woe of the prophet Amos, Adam Clarke, the co-worker of John Wesley, and possibly the most widely read commentator of the Methodist Church, says: "If there was a woe to them who invented instruments of music, as did David under the law, is there no woe, no curse to them who invent them, and introduce them into the worship of God in the Christian Church? I am an old man and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of God, and have had reason to believe they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire; but instruments of music in the house of God, I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and I here register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity." (Commentary on the Bible, vol. IV, p.686).
Music Has Its Place
There can be no question but that instrumental music has an appeal. Different types of music will appeal in different ways. Most everyone has some appreciation for one or more of the different types of music. Some make light of the better types of music, but this is only because they have never studied these better types. We generally hear in music what we have trained our ears to hear. Our tastes in music are some times like our tastes in food. We frequently must learn to like certain foods, but once enjoyed there is a definite hunger for those things. There are certain types of music that we must learn to appreciate, before there is any enjoyment in listening to them.
To carry our analogy between food and music a step further, music made on instruments influence no higher nature than does the food. The seat of music's power does not lay in the realm of the spiritual being, for no one was ever made any better by listening to ever-so-good a concert. Any spiritual values contained in music will, of necessity, be from the words of a song, or some idea associated with the aria. Instrumental music has no appeal for our spiritual natures, as it has been pointed out by John Calvin, Alexander Campbell, and others. If one questions that it's influence is over the animal nature they need only observe a parade and see the influence of martial strains on a beast. Such a one need not be reminded that "music hath charms to tame the wildest of beasts."
Cannot Produce Genuine Holiness
Be it remembered that in Christendom it was the Roman Catholic church that adopted instrumental music first. And this was at a time when the whole ritual of the mass was being re-designed to appeal to the fleshly nature. Idols, robes, and architecture for the eyes, incense for the sense of smell, music for the ears, and other humanisms for the other senses.
As further proof of the power of instrumental music over the animal nature, I suggest that Holiness churches would die a certain death without its aid. The Free Methodist church, after so long a time, has come to a realization of this fact, and is accepting it. The use of instrumental music is quite essential to their mesmerised convulsions and noisy services. This cannot be predicated of singing, however. Who ever heard of one of these modern dervishes dance to the tune of "Purer In Heart, 0 God"? The Mohammedan must have the rhythm found in instrumental music, and so must his brother-mystic among the Holiness churches. Just to sing "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone?" never threw anyone into such unavailing gymnastics. But it will make him a better man, when sung with the spirit and the understanding.
Instrumental Music Is Popular
Because of this appeal to the animal nature instrumental music is to be preferred. Some who accept it have never stopped to consider whether is was conducive to a true spirit of devotion, or not. They like it and therefore they are going to have it! In a few cases I have known those who have gone so far as to say, "I don't care what the Bible says about it, I like it." This, of course, is an extreme, and betrays a very irreverent attitude toward God's Word. There can be no sense of true devotion in such a person, for their worship is offered to themselves, and not to God. Too much of modern worship is drawn along the lines of entertainment, instead of seeking to please Jehovah.
Of such. Alexander Campbell once said: "That all persons who have no spiritual discernment, taste, or relish for spiritual meditations, consolations and sympathies of renewed hearts, should call for such aid is but natural. Pure water from the flinty rock has no attraction for the toper or winebibber. So, to those who have no real spirituality in them, and whose animal nature flags under the oppression of church services, I suppose that instrumental music would be not only a desideratum, but an essential prerequisite to fire up their souls to even animal devotion. But I presume to all spiritually-minded Christians such aids would be as a cow-bell in a concert." (Millennial Harbinger for 1851, p.582).
To fail to sing either of the two songs just alluded to with no idea of becoming purer in heart, or taking up the cross, would be vain or empty worship. We either sing with the spirit and the understanding, or we do not. We cannot use such songs for our own entertainment, it matters not whether this is in the church building or at home. A song either means something to us, or it doesn't. If it does, and we mean it when we sing it, we are fulfilling the Lord's command to worship Him "in spirit" (John 4:24). To sing "Purer in Heart, 0 God" without meaning it would be taking the name of God in vain.
To many, worship is a mere formality. They follow a cut and dried ritual. There is no real devotion. Prayers are prayed to be heard of men. Songs are sung for our entertainment, or for the beauty of the melody. This is but to lose the true spirit of worship and to practice formality. "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." (II Tim. 3:5). It is to this empty type of worship that Charles Haddon Spurgeon made reference, when in commenting on First Corinthians 14:15, he observed: "Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best music. We might as well pray to God by machinery as to praise by it." Dr. Spurgeon never permitted the organ to be introduced into his great Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London, while he was pastor.
Heathenism and Christianity Joined
Dr. Spurgeon's statement was possibly an allusion to the Hindu practice of putting a prayer on a wheel, and turning it. But are the heathen worse than we, when we go to church with the idea of listening to the beautiful music? Dr. A. J. Gordon, in his work How Christ Came To Church, says "As I heard all this the whole heart became sick. I though of churches which were bestowing ten times, and in some instances fifty times as much for artistic music as they contributed to foreign missions . . . we have brought up minstrels from Egypt, that 'music with its voluptuous swell' may take the place of that chastened, self-denying, holy song which no man can learn but they that have been redeemed." "If any shall name such scruples pharisaism or religious prudery, then come and let us reason together. Go into a Roman Catholic church and witness the services which are carried on there, and the question will at once arise: `How is it possible that the simple spiritual worship of the primitive church could have degenerated into such a mass of grotesque ceremonials and idolatrous abominations as are here exhibited?' The answer is easily found on looking into history. For a while the church was content to occupy the place of holy separation from the world appointed her by the Lord. This austere attitude gave offence to the heathen who had often desired to be friendly with the Christians, and were ready to tolerate their religion if only they would accord some slight token of respect to their own deities - - a gesture of reverence or a grain of incense. But all this was rigidly withheld by the disciples of Christ. Not the smallest concession would they make to pagan customs; not a shred would they incorporate into their worship from the heathen ceremonials; and so long as they maintained this spirit, they went forth conquering and to conquer." (pp. 48, 55, Pub. 1895, by American Baptist Pub. Soc.).
Is It An Aid?
Some insist that instrumental music is simply an aid to the worship. That it is not an aid is shown by the fact that the better the music, the fewer are they who sing. One preacher for the Christian Church, in Kansas, lamented this fact. He was frank enough to admit that when they had no pianist, everyone sang. When the piano was used only a little more than half sang. But after they bought a new organ, he said it was quite noticeable that hardly a third of the congregation sang.
Instrumental music is an aid to the singing, but it is the same kind of an aid that an image is to the idolater. Instead of being a means to draw him closer to God, it serves to direct his mind to the god of his own making. Just so with the instrument, in that it directs the attention to itself, instead of lifting the spirit by the sentiment of the song.
Is It Commanded In the Greek?
Possibly one of he boldest attempts to find instrumental music in the New Testament, is that made by its advocates who resort to the Greek. They say that the Greek word "psallo" means to sing to the accompaniment of some instrument. Here are a few questions that might prove interesting at this juncture:
1. Does the word "psallo" mean to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument?
2. If it does, why do not our translators indicate as much in giving us the English?
3. If it means this, would not the Greek church be likely to use instrumental music?
4. If it means to sing to the accompaniment of instrumental music, can we be saved without doing just this?
5. Does any writer of the New Testament name the instrument?
1. That "psallo" does not mean to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument is clearly manifest by consulting any Greek scholar. Prof. J. Henry Thayer, of the Harvard School of Divinity, is possibly one of the finest scholars of that language of the past century. In his lexicon he defines "psallo" to mean, "in the New Testament to sing a hymn - - to celebrate the praises of God in song." (p.675). An exhaustive list of authorities can be had by consulting either: Instrumental Music, by M. C. Kurfees; or The Church, by Coleman Overby.
2. Into the work of producing the King James, the English Revised (1885), the American Standard (1901), and the Revised Standard (1946) Versions of the Bible have gone the work of 226 of the world's greatest scholars, who spent a total of 39 years in laboring to give us these translations. Yet, there is not the slightest intimation in any of these translations on the occurrence of "psallo" where these versions suggest it means to use an instrument. Is this not a bit singular if there is such conclusive proof in the Greek for instrumental music?
3. All who practice immersion recognize in the Greek church, which has always baptized by immersion, a valid argument against sprinkling. They are well at home in the language of the New Testament original, and should know what it means. "In the Greek Church the organ never came into use. But after the eighth century it became more and more common in the Latin Church; not, however without opposition from the side of the monks." (Schaff-Herzog, Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. III, p.1702, third ed.)
Had instrumental music originated among those churches who knew and understood Greek there might be some basis for an argument here, but when it arose among churches ignorant of the Greek language, our conclusion is that the original Greek does not suggest its use.
4. It is admitted on the part of all candid Greek scholars that the original for baptize means immerse. There is no assurance of salvation to any accountable being who accepts any substitute. This is also true with the word translated sing, If it means to sing to the accompaniment of an instrument, there can be no assurance of salvation in doing less than that. The command to sing is for all, contingent upon an individual's possessing the ability to sing. Since there are no non-essential commands in the Bible, everything implied in a commandment is essential, whether that be faith, baptism, singing, or giving.
5. The word "psallo" is found five times in the Greek New Testament (Rom. 15:9; I Cor. 14:15 [twice]; Eph. 5:19; and James 5:13), and in every instance it is translated sing; except in Eph. 5:19, where it is rendered make melody. This latter phrase, it is to be admitted, is rather indefinite and could mean more than vocal music. If someone insists that it does, we will certainly agree with them. In fact, we will go so far as to say that it can mean nothing short of accompanying our songs with the making of melody. But the question here is just where is the melody to be made? Are we to assume that the apostle Paul meant for us to use an organ, piano, or violin; but never indicated which? It might be well to let him answer this question for himself. He has not left us in the dark about the matter, but has named the instrument in no uncertain terms. He says, "singing and making melody with your heart unto the Lord."
What I have said in the previous paragraph is applicable just here. There is no assurance of salvation in doing less than what God has commanded. The command to sing is a universal command. Therefore, anything it implies is a "must" for every person who desires to be well-pleasing unto the Lord. No person's worship can be acceptable to God without the sentiment of the song strikes across the vibrant chords of one's heart, and springing from adoration to God's Holy Name, gives vent to the unbounded love that possesses the heart of man. Without the accompaniment of this "instrument" that God placed within the human breast, our song is worse than an empty sound.
It is a sad commentary on the hearts and minds of mortals to think that they would divest Paul's language of its beauty and true meaning by trying to inject into it mechanical instruments of music.
No "Thou Shalt Not" Needed
We freely admit that there is no command that says, "Thou shalt not make melody on a musical instrument." Neither had God told Uzzah that he was not to touch the Ark of the Covenant (II Sam. 6:6-7). Yet, when Uzzah touched the Ark he was smitten dead. "Only a Levite was authorised to touch it, and Uzzah was apparently a man of Judah." (Expositor's Bible, vol. II, p.138, 1903 ed.). For one to touch the Ark who was not a Levite, was an act of presumption. When God said, "A Levite" it excluded everyone else.
There are only two kinds of music: vocal and instrumental. To sing would mean to make vocal music. When he tells us to make vocal music, it excludes instrumental music. When He has told us to praise Him with an instrument of His Divine Creation, it is not necessary for him to prohibit music made on something of our invention. To substitute an organ for the heart is to offer the same kind of worship that Cain offered, and is just as presumptuous as the act of Uzzah.
History Briefly Considered
Church history shows that there was no instrumental music in the apostolic church. In the introduction to their book, The Story of Hymns and Tunes, Brown and Butterworth make this comment: "The Jews sang. Jesus and his disciples sang. Paul and Silas sang, and so did the post-apostolic Christians; but until towards the close of the Sixteenth Century there were no instruments allowed in religious worship." (p. xii, pub. by American Tract Soc.).
Augustus Neander, who has been called "The Father of Modern Church History," says: "From the French church proceeded the use of the organ, the first musical instrument employed in the church." (History of the Christian Religion and Church, vol. III, p. 128). The remainder of Neander's testimony coincides with Dr. Shaff's, in the next paragraph.
A Great Presbyterian Scholar
Among church historians, there are none better than Neander and his student, Philip Schaff. For all practical purposes, Dr. Schaff even surpasses his teacher. Of instrumental music in the worship, he says: "The use of organs in churches is ascribed to Pope Vitalian (657-672). Constantine Copronymos sent an organ with other presents to King Pepin of France in 767. Charlemagne received one as a present from the Caliph Haroun al Rashid, and had it put up in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. The art of organ-building was cultivated in Germany. Pope John VIII (872-882) requested Bishop Anno of Freising to send him an organ and an organist.
"The attitude of the churches towards the organ varies. it shared to some extent the fate of images, except that it never was an object of worship. The poetic legend which Raphael has immortalised by one of his masterpieces, ascribes its invention to St. Cecilia, the patron of sacred music. The Greek church disapproves the use of organs. The Latin church introduced it pretty generally, but not without the protest of eminent men, so that even in the Council of Trent (1563) a motion was made, though not carried, to prohibit the organ at least in the mass. The Lutheran church retained, the Calvinistic churches rejected it, especially in Switzerland and Scotland; but in recent times the opposition has largely ceased."(History of the Christian Church, vol. IV, p.439).
Are There Harps In Heaven?
Some insist that there will be harps in heaven; therefore, we may have them in the church. For proof of the former, they take this language from Revelation (14:2): "And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder; and the voice which I heard was as the voice of harpers harping with their harps." (ASV.) Five times, you will notice, the apostle John states that he heard a voice. There is not one word said about his hearing a single harp. He was so impressed with the voice that he uses three descriptive terms in describing its beauty. Each of these three phrases describe one of the three elements of music.
1. In rhythm, it sounded like many waterfalls.
2. In volume, it was like a great thunder.
3. In melody, as harpers on a thousand harps.
In the next verse, John says; "They sing as it were a new song" - - still nothing said about playing to accompany their singing.
Nor are the harps in the fifth chapter for that purpose. In fact, he tells us there what they represent, in saying, "having each one a harp, and golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." (Rev. 5:8).
Are These Harps Literal?
The weakness of any position is betrayed by the extremes to which an advocate will go to sustain it. Whenever an interpreter of the book of Revelation begins to make things in that book literal, you may be assured there is some pet theory ahead. That book is written in figurative language. A beast may represent some ungodly civil power. One day might signify a year. An earthquake could possibly symbolise a great social or religious upheaval. These will serve to illustrate a few of the signs and symbols of that book. It is pretty generally admitted that one of these signs could not signify itself. And any attempt to make such symbols literal is the crudest sort of exegesis. By the same token, if we can bring harps into the church because they are here, we might also bring beasts, horses, dragons, a harlot, and a hundred other things.
However, for argument's sake let us grant that these harps are literal, and in heaven. What have we gained toward proving that we can bring them into the church? It is a patent fact that even the Old Covenant with its imperfections, recognised any attempt to copy what was in heaven as idolatry. "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above." (Exodus 20:4). Can we do what God condemned in Israel?
1. The use of instrumental music is nowhere commanded in the New Testament.
2. Its adoption is not authorised by either express language or remote inference.
3. The church founded by Christ and the apostles never used it.
4. The Greek church never used it.
5. It was first introduced by the Roman Catholics.
6. It was not used in the Jewish synagogue worship in the New Testament times, nor for more than 1800 years after.
7. It was first used in a Jewish synagogue in Berlin, in 1815, under the bitter and violent protest of many of the members. The civil authorities were appealed to, its use prohibited and not again permitted till 1818, and then a Jew was not allowed to play --- a Gentile organist was employed.
8. The Protestant Reformers opposed instrumental music. Luther spoke of the organ as "an ensign of Baal." John Wesley said he had no objection to organs in Methodist chapels, "provided they were neither seen nor heard."
9. The leaders of the Restoration Movement of the last century opposed it. A. Campbell's testimony has already been given. Robert Milligan insisted that instrumental music in Christian worship "is wholly unwarranted by anything that is either said or taught in the New Testament." (Scheme of Redemption p.336). Moses E. Lard said. "The question of instrumental music in the churches of Christ involves a great and sacred principle. That principle is the right of men to introduce innovations into the prescribed worship of God. This we utterly deny. The advocates of instrumental music affirm it." (Lard's Quarterly, Oct. 1867, p. 368). Prof. J. W. McGarvey said, "we cannot adopt the practice without abandoning the obvious and only ground on which a restoration of Primitive Christianity can be accomplished" (What Shall We Do With the Organ, p.4), and "the use of instrumental music is an element of Jewish worship which was thus discontinued, and therefore, it is condemned by the infallible authority of the Spirit." (Millennial Harbinger, 1864, p.513). Isaac Erret, writing in an editorial of the Christian Standard for 1861, stated: "The genius of the reformatory movement is not favorable to choir singing and instrumental music. No choir singing or instrumental music should ever be allowed to interfere for a moment with this privilege and right of the saints."
10. The first organ was introduced into the Christian church at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1867.* (* For the history of the introduction of the organ into the Christian Church, see appendix B, History of the First Christian Church, by Mrs. W. D. Hockaday of Granite, Okla.).
Concluding Scriptural Reasons
Finally, let us conclude with a number of good Scriptural reasons why churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in the worship.
1. Jesus says, "In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the precepts of men" (Matt. 15:9). Instrumental music is not found in any of the teachings of Christ, or His apostles. It is a precept added by the Pope; therefore, it is vain worship.
2. "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." (Matt. 15:13). Since instrumental music in Christian worship is of the Pope's planting, God will root it up.
3. Peter and the apostles were given authority to bind on earth (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). They did not bind instrumental music by command, example, or inference.
4. Peter enjoined brethren not to lord it over the church (I Pet. 5:3). To lord it over God's heritage, would be legislating where God has not legislated. Since God has given no indication that He wants instrumental music in the worship, those who bring it in are binding where neither Christ nor the apostles bound.
5. We are to hear Christ (Matt. 17:5), and any soul that does otherwise will be utterly destroyed (cf. Acts 3:22). When we turn to the Old Testament or to the Pope we are not hearing Christ.
6. If we return to the Old Law, we are severed from Christ, and fallen from grace (Gal. 5:6). To practice circumcision, polygamy, tithing, Sabbath-keeping, instrumental music, or animal sacrifice, means apostasy from Christ.
7. Christians are "dead to the law" (Rom. 7:4), and "discharged from the law (v.6), for Christ abolished the law (Eph. 2:15). No Christian, therefore, will return to it, and find justification for instrumental music.
8. The church has been espoused to Christ (II Cor. 11:2). Any time it accepts Moses, David, or the Pope it is guilty of spiritual adultery.
9. Faith comes by hearing God's Word (Acts 15:7; Rom. 10:17). Instrumental music is not by faith, and "whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).
10. if we seek to please men we cannot be the servants of Christ (Gal. 1:10). Many have admitted they would oppose instrumental music, as they know that churches of Christ are right, but they say the majority are against us.
11. "Handle not, nor taste nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men." (Col. 2:21-22). The use of instrumental music in Christian worship is a precept and doctrine of man, without sanction or precedent in divine authority. It perishes with the using. Therefore, we are to leave it alone.
12. Our "sacrifice of praise to God" is to be "the fruit of lips which make confession to his name" (Heb. 13:15). Instrumental music is not the fruit of the lips. Neither is it anything more than a soulless sound that can make no confession of Christ's name.
13. Our singing is to be a form of teaching and admonition (Col. 3-16). Instrumental music can neither teach nor admonish. In so far as these functions are concerned, it is little more than filling the air with a sound.
14. James says, "Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise" (5:13b). No provision made for playing an instrument.
15. John says, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God (II John 9). Paul says of himself and Barnabas "that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written (II Cor. 4:6). Instrumental music can not be found in the teaching of Christ. Therefore, to practice it is going beyond the things that are written.
16. Solomon warned Israel, "Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." (Prov. 30:6). John warns Christians in a similar vein in the final words of the Bible: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18-19). God says "sing," when we add "and play", we place ourselves under the condemnation of Almighty God.
FURTHER UNSCRIPTURAL PRACTICES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Further Unscriptural Practices of the Christian Church
Sometimes it is stated that instrumental music is the sole difference between churches of Christ and the Christian church. That this is not true, is easily seen in the following things as found in most Christian churches.
1. In Organisation. Christian churches have organised themselves into various
societies, such as aid societies, missionary societies, endeavour societies; and have made a separate organisation of their Sunday school work. God ordained: "unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen." (Eph. 3:21). Instead of doing things through the church to the glory of Christ, these societies receive the praise. In some quarters in the Christian church, it is thought the United Christian Missionary Society is governing the local congregations.
2. In Attractions. Not being content with the power of a crucified Saviour to draw men unto Himself (John 12:32), these churches have begun to compete with the theatre in plays, pantomimes, and carnivals. Their candle-light communions are an attempt to copy the drama of the Roman Catholic mass.
3. In Money-Raising Schemes. The Lord told Christians to lay by in store on the first day of the week (I Cor. 16:2). This is the sole system of raising funds to be found that bears Scriptural authority. Christian churches have taken offerings at almost every opportunity; conducted all sorts of sales, bazaars, shows, and dinners. Some have even resorted to the Old Testament tithe.
4. In General Compromises. Instrumental music dwarfs into a shadow when compared to some of the greater differences that Christian churches have begun to practice. They have begun to receive the unimmersed into their fellowship; to observe Easter, Lent, and Christmas; to practice majority rule; to call their ministers Reverend; to have women elders and preachers; and to refer to themselves, exclusively, as "Disciples of Christ." It is not unusual to find ministers for the Christian church who deny the miracles, the virgin birth, and the resurrection of Christ. One told me that Alexander Campbell's sermon on demons and angels was "sheer nonsense." This was after he had said, "Alexander Campbell is the founder of our church." The truth of the matter is that Alexander Campbell would have utterly repudiated such an empty honor, filled with worldly conceit. Yet, it shows the inconsistent position these preachers present to the world.
It grieves me greatly, as I bring this tract to a close, to think that a one-time happy and holy church is now divided. However, we who have not left the grounds fought for by the early reformers and the pioneers of the restoration movement, are not to be charged with the responsibility of this division. Search the works of these pioneers, and you will see that we stand where they stood. But in leaving that position Christian churches have done more than turning from the life labors of these men.
They have laid off the restraint that due respect for God's Word demands. A return to the gospel in its purity and simplicity was the sole aim of these men. Therefore, search not their writings, but rather search the Scriptures; and here you will find that we stand where the apostles and the early church stood.
HISTORY OF THE FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH
As told by Mrs. W. D. Hockaday, of Granite, Okla.
In about the year 1867 the Christians worshipping at the Vine St. Church of Christ in St. Louis, Mo. decided that they should have a better building and a better location. They learned that the Episcopal Church at 17th and Olive Sts. wanted to sell their building This was a good building, well located, so they bought it. It was well furnished with carpeted floors and cushioned seats, and a three thousand dollar pipe organ had been built into the brick wall in the organ-loft This was considered a part of the building, and of course was in the bargain.
Soon after they began meeting in this building the question arose as to what to do with the organ. The debate waxed warm and the feeling became so strong that on one occasion when Dr. Christopher, who was one of the elders and a brother-in-law to J. W. McGarvey, reached the building to prepare the Communion Service one Lord's Day he found the doors locked and the "organ party" were on the inside singing and playing the organ.
Of course, this condition could not last and at a business meeting it was decided that three men would be selected to assist them in their difficulties. Isaac Erret, editor of the Christian Standard; J. K. Rogers, President of the Christian College at Columbia, Mo.; and L. B. Wilkes, eminent debater and author of Designs of Christian Baptism, also of Columbia, Mo., were the men chosen for this task. These were three of the outstanding scholars, educators and writers of the brotherhood. These men decided that the organ must be done away with to restore peace in the church and to keep the worship scriptural. It was then that the organ was torn out of the wall and sold.
Those in favor of the organ and its use left the church of Christ and began worshipping in a rented hall. They afterward built the Central Christian Church. This was the beginning of the present-day Christian Church.
The eldership of the Church of Christ at the time of this division was composed of Dr. Hiram Christopher (afore mentioned) who served as a professor of Chemistry in Bethany College at the time that Alexander Campbell was president. He also wrote a number of books of which Remedial System is one; John G. Allen and J. W. Ellis (uncle of the author of this article). These elders stood to a man in their opposition to the use of the instrument in the worship.
After some time the Christian Church did manage to gain control of this church and took the property as they did in so many other places by majority rule and by going to law. In 1884 I heard my first hymn sung to the accompaniment of the organ in the 17th and Olive Sts. church while visiting there one Wednesday evening.
I grew up in the 17th and Olive Sts. church, not leaving it until 1878. I was baptized there by Dr. Hopson in 1874. I believe that I know the facts as well as anyone now living.
Mrs. W. D. Hockaday.