Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 21, 1949

Reviewing Brewer On Instrumental Music

Vernon Shuffett, Greensburg, Kentucky

In the November 11, 1948, issue of the Gospel Advocate there appeared an article by Bro. G. C. Brewer under the heading "Questions and Quibbles No. 6", in which he defends the practice of having instrumental music at a wedding held in a meeting house of the church of the Lord. We believe Brother Brewer went too far in his defense, and that his statements relative to, and in defense of, such a practice are calculated to do much harm. Those who may have entertained the idea that there isn't any harm in instrumental music in the worship will be much encouraged and strengthened in their belief by Brother Brewer's statements.

Using Our "Discretion"

In his article on the subject Brewer makes the argument that since the New Testament doesn't direct us in the performance of marriage ceremonies we are at perfect liberty to use our own "discretion" concerning the matter in which they are conducted.

That is undoubtedly true, but what sort of "discretion" is it that leads us to conduct either a marriage service or a funeral service in such a manner as to cast reflection on the teaching of the New Testament? Brother Brewer suggests that girls often want a church wedding because they feel it adds "solemnity and dignity and sacredness" to their wedding. But exactly why do they feel that it adds "solemnity and dignity and sacredness" to the ceremony? Is not that the very point at issue? Is it not obvious that the girls themselves (and the general public, too) in spite of all Brother Brewer's protestations feel that the church wedding is a "religious service"?

If instrumental music is used in the church building at weddings, funerals, and other "non-religious" services, just who is going to determine when, and how often, and in what services we are to use it? And if such is practiced, how will it ever be possible to convince people that there is any distinction between one "service" and another. Do we not make ourselves ridiculous in the eyes of the general public by such "quibbles" ?

Bro. Brewer says that this is a problem that "will have to be solved by the elders of any church according to the demands of each place". Very well; then in one community the elders may decide to use the organ, piano, violin, string band, etc. at all weddings, funerals, young people's meetings (in the church but "non-religious"), Vacation Bible schools, and other occasions when people gather at the church building. In another community the elders may decide against all such usages. And how can the world generally in such cases see any sense in regard to our teaching on the use of instrumental music in our worship of God?

"Let Them Leave The State"

In a second article on the same subject, in answer to some questions, Brother Brewer says, "If any member of any congregation does not want to participate in a wedding held in a church building, that person will be perfectly free to abstain from participation, to be absent from the place, and even, if he cares to do so, be absent from the State in which such ceremony is being said".

This is saying that any brother or group of brethren, who may have sacrificed and labored to have the church building, but who object, for conscience' sake, to the bringing in of an instrument of music, may absent themselves from the service and even from the state!

There is many an aged saint to whom that will have a familiar ring! We are not so far removed from the bitter fight with the digressives to have forgotten those words. I don't know whether Brother Brewer means they should stay away or not. The digressives did, when they expressed that sentiment. Is this the way to promote good will and harmony in the church? Is this the way to "shun the very appearance of evil"? Does this indicate a desire to shun and avoid "foolish questions?

Application Of I Cor. 8:13

In Brother Brewer's fourth article on the subject he studies at length Paul's instructions contained in I Cor, 8:13. Throughout his article Bro. Brewer takes the position that those of us who object to the use of instrumental music in church services are not in good faith. He pictures example after example in which he has the objector using Paul's language for selfish purposes.

But that misses the point of Paul's instruction altogether—as it misses the point of our argument. We object to the use of the instrument for precisely the reason that it might cause some "brother to stumble". Some weak member of the church, having been taught by Brother Brewer, can see little distinction between a funeral service, a wedding service, and a mid-week prayer meeting, all of which are conducted in the meeting house, by the preacher, and in some of which the identical songs are used. Why is it right to sing "Beautiful Isle of Somewhere" in a funeral service in the church building with a piano on Sunday afternoon, and wrong to sing that same song with a piano three hours later at the Sunday night worship service? Frankly, there are many who aren't exactly "weak" who would find it hard to tell the difference! And let one of Bro. Brewer's converts move into a town where there is a Christian church, but no church of Christ, and it is a foregone conclusion that he will join the digressives.

Wouldn't it be wiser and safer to advocate the things that make for peace, and teach our Christian girls and boys that nothing should be done in the church, or elsewhere, that would embarrass the church? Let us teach them that if they wish to be married as Christians, their wedding ceremony is a sacred and solemn occasion; not one thing in it should cast reflection on the teaching which they have received; not one word or action should cause any one (church member or non church member) to have any doubts as to the proper way to worship God. And if instrumental music is desired for the service, by all means, let them take the service to a home, a public hall, or some other place where their use of it will not confuse the minds of the general public as to the teaching of the Lord, and the practice of his people, on this matter.