"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.VIII No.I Pg.36-37
June 1945

Watchman, What Of The Night?

F. L. Paisley

The Christian Unity Quarterly, of July-August-September, 1944, has come to me. In it Brother Witty has an interesting essay under the above heading. He says some fine things in decrying the division that exists over the use (or is it non-use?) of instrumental music in worship. I take it that he would have us state the issue to include also the non-use of the instrument, as though not to use it is as much the cause of division as the use is. I do not understand the aims and spirit of the Quarterly if all of them connected with the movement do not so hold. It is very clear that the present users of mechanical music will be willing, for the sake of nominal unity, for the non-users to continue not to use the instrument, provided they cease all opposition to it. But I do not get the hint that any of them think that the use of the instrument should ever be finally discarded as a means of unity. It has been my conviction from the first that both sides were and are anxious to have unity among the two groups of churches. But on the part of the Christian Churches participating, it has never been the least entertained or dreamed that they would eventually give up entirely mechanical music--that unity will come only that way, if they know that it will not be brought about short of that, then they know more than Brother Witty knows, unless he expects the churches to reach the sort of general compromise. Editor Munch says was the forced practice of Brother John F. Rowe for some time many years ago.

There are just three positions possible: The users of the instrument will have to cease it entirely, or the opposers will give up all opposition, or a general compromise will be agreed upon and instrumental folk will worship without the instrument if and when they happen to be where it is not used, and the present opposers will worship with it, without compunction of conscience, when they are where the instrument is used. Let the churches of Christ adopt the compromise ground, and it will be a matter of time till all churches will have gone to the ground of the Christian Churches. They know this to be the inevitable, and this is why they keep on working for what they call unity.

Brother Witty has been a gospel preacher for years. It is supposed that he has always stood against the use of instrumental music--that he has held it to be an entirely unacceptable practice. We suppose that he has held against it on greater grounds than mere policy--merely better not to use it. I suppose that he has regarded it in the past as a definite sin, one as clearly opposed to the spirit and letter of the law of Christ as animal sacrifice in Christian worship is. If this has been his position, when did he change? He surely does not hold this ground now. If he does, then some things he says are so far "off the beam" of common sense that a careful man will not say them without having yielded that former ground.

Dropping down into his editorial we find him sharply reproving "slackers" for not being interested in getting a settlement of the difference. Of course, there have always been the uninformed in the churches of Christ who could never give any reason for not using an instrument, and, therefore, did of really oppose it. These have no grounds for objections, call them "slackers" or anything else. But that is not what Brother Witty means. He thinks he is spanking the active preachers and other brethren who have not had any confidence in the possible outcome of the "Unity Movement," except to get all who will to go to the grounds held by the Christian Churches, or at best (or worst) reach the compromise agreement. We have known from the first day of their "movement" that the users of the instrument have not the least thought of yielding it and coming to the New Testament grounds for unity. We have believed from the first that Brother Witty knew they would never yield one inch. Some few individuals might, and they are worth the efforts, but not a strong congregation will do so. At least we doubt that Brother Witty could now lead one to do so. This writer asked him some questions some eight years ago. One was about like this: When the last battle has been fought, the smoke has cleared away, and the Christian churches still hold to the instrument, just where will you stand? He did not bother to answer. Nor will he do so, we think.

Let me quote from his pen. "We have all been contented to let things go on just as we found them when we took over where our fathers left off." This is a statement of things as they are not, under the claim of being as they are. Doubtless many of us have not been as aggressive in the fight for real unity as we should have been: Perhaps we have not always been as diplomatic as we should have been. But we have been much concerned. We have not been contented. We have lifted our voices in the pulpits, in the papers and on the air against every form of digression from the simple worship the Lord ordained. Some of us have stood ready to meet any advocate of instrumental music any day, either in open battle, if that seemed best, or in a heart to heart talk in effort to "reason together." We have always stood ready and offering: Show us where the instrument is even permissible, within the scope of divine law under Christ, and we will adopt it.

Brother Witty continues: The time has come when we must ask God to help us find a way out. And, mind you, God will do it." As earnest as the editor evidently is in this appeal, honesty demands that we take issue with him. Yes, this writer takes a square issue on both his sentences.

The Jew would be as Scriptural, and far more consistent, if he should appeal to his brethren in the same words. If he should say, "The time has come when we must ask God to send us a Savior. And, mind you, God will do it," he would be as nearly right as is Brother Witty. The Detroit sage writes as if God has left us in a predicament of division over a thing about which he has not legislated, either in fact or in principle. It is folly to ask God for "a way out" when he has given in the plainest of terms that very "way out." It is also folly to say God will send a way out, as much so as to say he will send us a Savior. He has already sent both, if the New Testament is reliable!

Brother Witty implies that the difficulty is to be solved, the way out is to be found, by human wisdom, by arriving at the best solution for a division over things perfectly immaterial to God. If he says what he means, then he no longer holds the position that the only way to worship God acceptably is without the instrument. If that is the only worship God accepts, then God has sent us "the way out" when he revealed and described that worship, laying down the undying principles of "true worship." Is the Hebrew looking for a Savior yet to come? He is. Therefore, he would be perfectly consistent to make the statements Brother Witty made. Is Brother Witty looking for a revelation from God, directly or by means of human wisdom, by which we may learn a new way to be untied, even by adopting instrumental music? If not, then his statement is amiss the mark of a careful writer. Just a common, country, gospel preacher should know enough about the law of worship and unity not to say a thing like that.

Previous to this bit of information (?) he gave us, he tried to make a comparison between his and Murch's efforts, and the slow progress made, with that of the Campbells and Scotts of the restoration days. Because those men would not give up in face of opposition and failures at first, therefore the present "Unity Movement" should continue, not expecting to win out for several years. But there is such a vast difference between the two movements and the principles upon which they work that it is amusing that a man should make the blunder of attempted comparison.

The men pleading for a restoration a century ago were in the same position that Brother Witty would be were he pleading for a return to a "thus saith the Lord." Yes, the Lord has said a lot about unity and against division. But he gave us the exact ground upon which unity "in him" may be found, and it is folly to look for it, and it is anti-gospel to work for it on any other ground. The Campbells and Stones held a position as infallibly correct as is any scientific fact which has fully left the theory stage of investigation. Does Brother Witty mean to insinuate that the giants in that restoration plea were at work with denominational men trying to discover, or invent, a way of unity not definitely and clearly set forth in the New Testament? Does he mean that those men considered any compromise with the men of the denominations? Will he say that his plan for unity is not by our adopting instrumental music at times when unity cannot be had any other way? I do not believe that he will answer this question categorically. Will he say that the New Testament is indefinite as to the kind of worship which must be rendered the Lord? So that in cases we may adopt the practice of the Christian Churches? Will he say that unity is so important that the instrument can be used one time to gain it? Will he say that singing with an instrument is less a sin than to be separated from those who will not give it up? If he answers "yes" to this question, then he must work for adoption of the instrument in all places, for unity can be had over night by our going to the ground of the Christian Churches. If he says "no" to this question--if he says that to worship with the instrument is too serious, a departure from the law of the Lord to do so for the sake of unity with those who will not quit it-then he must know that the two groups will never get together and that he is only playing into 'the hands' of those who have the edge on him in this work. Who for a moment thinks that he thinks that Murch has any intention of ever helping churches discard their practices which we know to be in direct violation to the will of the Lord?

Brother Witty would have the hearty hand of every informed gospel preacher, and all the papers standing opposed to his compromising attitude, if he were standing like Campbell and his co-workers stood. They adopted 1 Peter 4:11 with a human form of expression. They never thought of indicating that the pedo-baptists, or any other sectarian, held any possible ground of unity. They did not dream that they could meet the denominations on half way ground, sometimes one group yielding to the wishes of the other and then reversing the practice for the sake of unity. With them it was come not to us, but to the plainly revealed way of the Lord in the Scriptures. Is that your position in this "Unity" movement, Brother Witty? Has the Lord clearly given a way to worship God "in spirit and in truth?" How far will we have to go toward the Christian Churches' idea of unity to meet them? How much of the divinely given way of worship will we have to surrender to fully adopt the plan of unity for which you are working?

It is either right or wrong to worship as do the Christian Churches. If it is right, for sake of unity let's adopt it wholly. If it is wrong, then no word the Lord ever offered the world for unity even remotely suggests that we yield. Will Brother Witty clearly commit himself on the question: Which is the greater sin, for all the churches to adopt the instrument and unite with those who use it, or refuse to use it at all and keep separated from them? He might answer this question too: Is the use or non-use of the instrument (all side issues not mentioned now) the real separation from the New Testament standard of church worship? It is not a question as to which group in any given case may show the worse spirit, or which be the kinder and gentler. Suppose that opposers should be harsher in a given case, is it the use or refusal to use mechanical music which is the real departure from the Lord's standard of acts of worship?

In the latter part of his article Brother Witty got down to rock bottom more nearly than his first pages or my criticisms indicate. He stated nine propositions in effort to cover all possible claims for authority of the instrument in the worship. Then he turned those propositions into questions. Both the propositions and questions indicate a stronger stand against the practice of the Christian Church than the rest of his article allows. If my criticisms misrepresent him in any way, may they serve to bring him out definitely for the only possible ground of unity, so we can know that he is not trying to lead us into acceptance of mechanical music. However strong he may be in determination not to adopt the instrument, he surely knows that Murch and his men are just as determined not to give it up. Then where is unity possible?

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I want to commend you for the excellent piece of work you have done in the special edition of the Banner on J. Frank Norris. I know it must have cost you many hours of painstaking labor which we hope will be rewarded in a wide reading of it. I'm sure it will do much good.

I'll have another article in shortly. Brother Young told me he sent you a check for the extra copies. We will cover the surrounding territory with them.

Wishing you health, happiness, and continued success. -Allen E. Johnson, Roswell, N. M.

I have received your special edition concerning the Norris-Wallace Debate. The same has been read with deep interest. I have learned a number of things from it which I did not know. This issue should have wide circulation among the Fundamentalist Baptist as well as among our own brethren.

-Norman H. Beaman, Detroit, Mich.