Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 9, 1954

Instrumental Music And King David

David Lipscomb

(Queries and Answers)

Please give me a scriptural answer to the following: "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart." (Acts 13:22; see also 1 Sam. 13:14.) David made many musical instruments to praise the Lord with (1 Chron. 23:5), for which he was not condemned. When Solomon dedicated the house of the Lord, the Levites lifted up their voices; and when the musical instruments sounded in harmony, the glory of the Lord filled the house. (2 Chron. 3:13, 14.) Yet they were not condemned. Why, then, do the people condemn the use of the organ in the church?

Let us try that logic and see where it leads us. David was a man after God's heart. David danced before the Lord as a means of glorifying him, and said, "Let them praise his name in the dance." (Psalm 149:3.) "Praise him with the timbrel and dance." (Psalm 150:4.) Now, why can we not have the young people join in a dance at the Lord's day service on the Lord's day? It would draw big crowds of young and old to have a regular hugging round dance every Sunday. As a drawing influence, it would beat the organ a hundredfold.

Again, David had a multiplicity of wives; yet he was a man after God's heart. Why not all of us turn Mormon, and, as one wife grows old, add a new and young one to our family?

Again, David made burnt offerings of cattle and sheep and goats and birds; he burned incense; yet he was a man after God's own heart. Why not we do the same? This reasoning would restore the whole Jewish law, with all the additions and perversions, with its ordinances and bloody sacrifices. Christ came to deliver his people from these services — the bondage of the law. He "took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Then it is not in force; none of the order, the ritual, the service, is in force. Jesus Christ became our priest. "The priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." (Heb. 7:12.) The Spirit also says that a man is "not crowned except he strive lawfully."

Now, Christ, in introducing his law, left the organ and all instrumental music, the dance, the burnt offerings and sacrifices, out of his service and condemned polygamy. When he and the apostles left these out of the service, who dare bring them in? Instrumental music was not only left out, but, notwithstanding both Jew and pagan worshippers had been accustomed to it, the leaving it out was regarded such an emphatic condemnation of it that none dared to bring it into the worship for over six hundred years. Then it was introduced into the Eastern churches, but not into the Western churches till 1200 A.D. Then the pope and the political ruler used their combined authority to bring it in.

The same reasoning and the same authority that justify the use of the organ will justify the dance (I repeat, it would be worth a dozen organs to draw a crowd, and is just as acceptable to God as the organ), the burnt offerings, the incense, and will justify polygamy. They were all practiced, not only by David, a man of God's own heart, but by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and thousands of others whose hearts were right before God. They practiced them because God provided for them or tolerated them under those old dispensations; but he does not do it in the Christian dispensation, but declares whoever adds to the appointments of God shall be accursed. We are forbidden both by oft-repeated commandment and many terrible examples to do anything in the worship of God that He has not commanded.

Alexander Campbell always refused to speak where the organ was used. Even when invited to preach in a Presbyterian church in New Orleans, he requested the organ to be silent on the occasion. He maintained it was sensuous, wholly appealing to the fleshly feelings, and so was suited to the fleshly institution of Judaism, but was ill suited and wholly antagonistic to the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ.

Elder Isaac Errett, while assistant editor of the Harbinger, wrote the following:

"The highest artistic skill has somehow been associated with the lowest spiritual culture, and has been far more promotive of sensuous than of spiritual attractions. The genius of this reformatory movement, like that of previous reformations, is not favorable to choir singing and instrumental music. Its sympathies are with the bewildered and sin-oppressed masses, and it wants 'music for the millions.' Its original power will be largely lost when the stirring melodies of its early days shall have been supplanted by stately artistic performances. As the church of Christ is the common home of his people — 'barbarian, Scythian, bond and free' — who are 'all one in Christ Jesus,' and as singing is part of worship in which the great mass of Christians can personally practice, no choir singing or instrumental music should ever be allowed to interfere for a moment with the privilege and right of the saints ...."

These are good and solid reasons why instrumental music was admissible in the church of God in the Jewish dispensation, but not under the Christian. As Elder Errett prophesied, the original power and point of our plea to return to apostolic ground is largely lost when the stirring melodies of its early days have been supplanted by artistic performances of either choir or organ. Why any can fail to see that the introduction into the worship of either the choir or the organ violates the order of God and destroys His worship is strange.