"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.IV No.IV Pg.2-3,7
November 1941

Advancing Backwards

Cled E. Wallace

We have come a long way since instrumental music was first introduced into the worship of churches of Christ. The first efforts along that line were of a very cautious, apologetic nature. The innovators grew bolder and the tide of innovation swept in until for awhile it looked as though the opposition would be completely overwhelmed. Many churches that opposed the organ were small and despised. They were held up to scorn. Even David Lipscomb was caricatured in the Christian Standard as an old woman with a broom trying to sweep back the tide of the ocean. Stalwart defenders of the inspired order in worship as well as in doctrine were bold, fearless and persistent. They had the facts of New Testament teaching on their side and they made the most of it. They were invincible in debate, and the fear of them after a time made debates unpopular with the players on instruments. They resorted to guile and the popular vote to carry forward their schemes of innovation. "By their smooth and fair speech they beguiled the hearts of the innocent" and assured them that the controversy was not over fundamentals but mere incidentals and that instrumental music was to be classed with such things as song-books, baptisteries, black-boards, pews and carpets. Many preachers took the stand that they could preach for either side and whether or not organs should be used in worship should be left to each church. The independence of the congregation, accepted by all was urged as a good reason why such a congregation could use an organ if it wanted to. The opposition urged with good reason that a congregation had no right to introduce an unscriptural practice whether it be the lighting of tapers, the burning of incense, infant baptism or instrumental music. A church of Christ must observe the things the Lord commanded and could not revolve itself into a legislative assembly. Taking this impregnable stand, faithful adherents of the divine order of things, withdrew from congregations which introduced the organ and started worship elsewhere. They were denounced as factionists and trouble-makers by a class of innovators who boasted that they were possessed of an abundant supply of "the Spirit of Christ." The champions of loyalty drew on them the sword of the Spirit the sharp end of which drew blood after this fashion: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them." (Rom. 16:17) Of course the champions of innovations immediately set up a cry of "making tests of fellowship" and the like. The appeasers all went digressive and the lines were drawn. The ones who caused the trouble by introducing the unscriptural practices have always considered themselves very innocent and lamblike, although in a multitude of instances they bullied themselves into power.

The opposers of innovations fought with a zeal born of deep conviction and made substantial gains. The tide began to turn in many sections of the country. At the beginning, able and devout men had warned that the organ merely opened the flood-gate for even more shocking departures from the truth. Time has amply shown that they were dead right in their contention. The introduction of the organ was a surrender of the only principle which could make a full restoration of the New Testament order possible. Today the majority of the digressives are more concerned with appeasement moves and pleasing the sects, or being like them, than they are about the identity of the New Testament church. The organ crowd is generally very tolerant of sectarian doctrine and practices, even if the Christian Standard does blow a blast on the old Ram's Horn occasionally. It is significant that nobody of any great note on the organ side is burning up with zeal to affirm that the New Testament authorizes the use of instrumental music in the worship of God.

Churches that still sing and do not play are numerous enough, and strong enough, and going forward fast enough, to attract the benevolent attention of "the conservatives" among the digressives. A national unity movement has been launched to bring about a cessation of hostilities. The idea seems to be, as far as I am able to observe from this distance, to just call the fight off and fraternize. Let bygones be bygones and leave it to the churches to use, or not use instrumental music as they may independently determine. The national unity movement is calling for a stalemate with no winners and no losers. Is it possible that this fight has been going in a circle and we are right back where we started when the organ first crept in? Brother Witty, not to say anything about Brother Murch, seems to think so, or more accurately seems to hope so. They are in for more shocks than they have already received, God being our helper. If we can now make peace on such terms, then the digressives have been right all the time and we have been wrong all the time. If the organ is a matter to be determined by the congregation, like where we shall order our songbooks, or where we shall build a meeting-house, then the fight should have stopped right where it started and a little before. If the issue has not changed, then the sort of appeasement this unity movement calls for is a surrender to a smooth digressive ruse. It will not work. We are not going to advance backwards, even if Brother Witty and others are shouting for a retreat in a way that tickles the ears of digressive leaders.

The first ripe fruits of the Witty-Murch movement have been plucked and tasted in a pre-millennial church in Louisville, Kentucky. An innocent bystander might conclude it sounds good, even if he doesn't know how it tastes, judging by the way S. S. Lappin, E. L. Jorgenson and Don Carlos Janes are smacking their lips over it. They are doing their best to, in fact over-doing their act, to persuade us to take just one little bite of the forbidden fruit. I warn you, just one bite, and we are goners. You cannot even take a wee nibble without springing this digressive trap. Jorgenson and Janes are already in, and I'm wondering at the peculiarity of the prudence that is holding Claud Witty back. The next bite, according to the rules, ought to be his. I have already paid my respects to some of Brother Janes' lip-smacking in the Christian Standard and the Firm Foundation, which Brother Showalter also took a healthy crack at, and now I'm tuned in to the same sort of thing in the Christian Standard with S. S. Lappin furnishing the lip music. It must have been a sweet morsel that he bit off. He smacks his lips to the tune of a whole page of fine print in the Christian Standard. His delight is unbounded. Of course everybody knows by now that Brother Lappin is a digressive and always has been. The Highland church in Louisville called him for a meeting. Sister Lappin was with him, which is not a point I'm criticizing. A preacher should take his wife with him when he goes away from home, occasionally, or oftener if possible. They both had a good time with the Highland church, judging from this remark by Brother Lappin:

"Mrs. Lappin was with me through the series, not as a soloist, but as my companion, and was used repeatedly by Brother Jorgensen in special songs. She and I are agreed that in no engagement during our two years together have we had more royal and loyal co-operation and response than at Highland. Not once in homes, in private or in public has any controversial note been sounded. I have preached the same sermons I have used in Christian churches for years and without a word of alteration. Brother Jorgensen and I and Don Carlos Janes, who is a member at Highland, have gone over every point at issue between Christian Churches' and Churches of Christ' (judging by the squirm of my conscience when I write it thus, it must be a sin; I trust I may be forgiven; one has to make himself understood in Babylon); and all our converse has been to stress agreements and emphasize the weighty things of the Kingdom—righteousness and peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit."

It seems to me that Brother Lappin's conscience is squirming over the wrong thing. It should squirm over the fact that he advocates, condones and apologizes for unscriptural innovations which has brought about and still perpetuates the division he deplores. The kind of a truce he advocates and demonstrated in the Highland meeting will be about as effective as removing a mole when the diagnosis reveals a ruptured appendix. I take it that he, Jorgenson and Janes decided that the organ was a very inconsequential item when the time comes to "emphasize the weighty things of the Kingdom." Evidently, Brother Lappin got the idea that Jorgenson and Janes are not heavy weights of opposition to digressive peculiarities. My impression is that he got exactly the right idea. "Three musketeers" of digression must have come together in the Highland meeting. It is an old digressive trick to "emphasize the weighty things of the Kingdom" and belittle the opposition to "a little thing" like an organ. One would think they would be willing to surrender this featherweight that has caused so much trouble, and remove a real obstacle to peace but not they! The prospect of doing without it immediately gives it great weight! Janes and Jorgenson fell for this line and it was not a long fall at that. When they get right down to the weighty things of the Kingdom," they have Christ on David's literal throne on earth ruling the nations with a literal rod of iron! It is significant that this Unity Movement has drawn its sympathizers among us. My opinion is that a general defection will prove to be so slight as to be extremely painful to the conspirators who are trying to work this scheme and leave them considerably disillusioned and embarrassed. Jorgenson and Janes are by no means models of loyalty in the eyes of the brethren aside from this Louisville venture of recent date. When they start something out of the ordinary, brethren generally are apt to conclude that they are setting an example which it will be good not to follow. Brother Jorgenson recently went to New Castle, Pennsylvania and contacted Brother Holly. The reception he got did not exactly inflame him with satisfaction. He called up Dr. Plum, an elder of the congregation in East Liverpool, Ohio. The result did not make him feel any better. He complained bitterly of the "Wallace influence" in these parts. I take it as a compliment. Whatsoever and wherever the "Wallace influence" is, it is dead against the "Boll, Jorgenson, Janes influence." We are not premillennialists and have no compromises to offer for the gladdening of digressive hearts. Some of these men who write under the "Wallace influence" purr with contentment over the Witty, Murch, Lappin influence. Brethren are not advancing backward in marking them in the way of "influence." It looks like it won't be long now until their chief welcome will be in digressive churches.

Brother Lappin gives credit to whom credit is due. He informs us that the committee

"In which James DeForest Murch and Claud Witty are active, has done something, at least; they are responsible for this fine meeting we have had at Highland Church in Louisville; in which the old Jerusalem gospel has been preached, in which glorious music has been enjoyed without an instrument and to which preachers as well as elders and deacons of both Churches of Christ' and Christian Churches' (if I were a Catholic I would cross myself) have come to rejoice together and repent of former un-brotherliness. I hope the fraternal gesture may be oft repeated." If Brother Witty is jointly responsible with Brother Murch for the Highland church calling a digressive preacher to do the preaching in its meeting, he is also using his influence for what it may be worth to get other loyal churches to do the same thing. We are set against this "Witty Influence." It is the wrong influence. As we see it, there is no quicker way on earth to make digressive churches than to call digressive preachers for meetings. Is this what Brother Witty is working for? And he thinks the Lord is ashamed of us for not working for the same thing! He evidently does not know the mind of the Lord in this matter. Maybe Brother Lappin should go ahead and cross himself. His organ came from the Catholics. The issue is not a question of "former" or present "un-brotherliness" as Brother Lappin chooses to call it. It is a question of loyalty to God with some of us who evidently have more convictions on the matter than Brethren Witty, Jorgenson and Janes seem to have.

Brother Lappin states his appraisal' of the issue in these words:

"Highland Church of Christ and her sister churches of the same faith and fellowship are anti-anti-sin, anti-sectarianism, anti-Satan. Thus far-and no farther-do I go with them. I maintain that the local church of the New Testament is free; it appears to me that certain leaders have been in error in that they would dictate to the local church in matters about which there is no word of guidance in the New Testament. That, and not the use or nonuse of instrumental music or missionary societies, seems to me to be the point of departure."

In the first place it is a misrepresentation of the churches generally to hold up the Highland church as typical. That particular church is pretty much of a parish among "her sister churches of the same faith and fellowship." It is widely known as premillennial, soft, and compromising. Its "fellowship" with Brother Lappin has not improved its reputation among "her sister churches."

Brother Lappin's idea seems to be that because "the local church of the New Testament is free" it has the right to use instrumental music and join up with the societies if it wants to and that with impunity. Other "free" churches are not "free" to dub a "free" church digressive, condemn it and have nothing to do with it in the way of "fellowship," even if it is digressive! This is carrying freedom a little too far. It gives digressive churches unrestricted freedom and puts the others in a strait-jacket in reference to any effective stand they may care to take against corrupting the worship of God. Of course Brother Lappin does not consider that instrumental music is a corruption. Others do, and his little dissertation on "free", churches is a begging of the question. We are not dictating to the churches when we protest that no congregation has any right to introduce an organ into its worship, in the absence of divine authority, and if it does so, it should be marked for what it is and loyal disciples of the Lord should be warned against it. When churches consider themselves "free" to act up contrary to the Scriptures, I for one am not willing to concede them immunity to either criticism or rebuke. They certainly have no claim to my "fellowship" or that of another congregation, if I or they, conscientiously believe them undeserving of it. We are "free" too. The more I think of it, the more thoroughly convinced I am that a lot of this "unity" talk we are hearing and reading about is an effort to break down opposition to instrumental music in worship. Should "the fraternal gesture" Brother Lappin enthuses over "be oft repeated," what will be the natural and inevitable result? Will churches that use the instruments give them up? Certainly not! Churches that do not use them will gradually, if not more quickly, conclude that they might as well have them too, if they want them which they probably will. The truth is that these gentlemen who are making "the fraternal gestures" are not as much opposed to the organ in worship as they ought to be, to give any sharp point to their opposition. The promoters of these "fraternal gestures" ought to be able to see this if they are not as dense in their upper ends as some of them are in their middles. I am convinced that the digressive side of this delightful "fellowship" does see it and are enjoying an internal elation as rapt as some old codger about to win a tight checker-game. I have no time for checker games with these gentlemen. I propose to shoot it out with them on the basis of what the New Testament teaches.-C. E. W.