Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 19, 1961
NUMBER 24, PAGE 1,8-11

Walking By Faith --- No. 2

M. C. Kurfees

(A sermon preached at Campbell Street Church, Louisville, Kentucky, November 18, 1894.)

"For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." (John 6:38)

In this passage, we have a clear and explicit statement that it was the supreme desire of Jesus to do His Father's will: "For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." There is one recorded instance (Luke 22:42) in which His will clashed with that of the Father, but even then He submissively bowed to the Father's will, uttering the famous words: "Not my will, but thine be done." Thus, he set the example for all men that they should seek to do, not their own will, but the will of the heavenly Father. Peter says: "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow in his steps." (1 Pet. 2:21) Hence, in all matters of work and worship, those who respect the example of Jesus will not seek to have their own will carried out, but will be satisfied to follow the Father's will as expressed in His Word.

What, then, is the divine will in Christian worship? First of all, the worship of God prescribed in the New Testament is marked by great simplicity. It consisted in reading the Scriptures (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:13), Prayer (Acts 3:1; 1 Thess. 5:17; 1 Tim. 2:8), Exhortation (1 Tim. 4:13; Heb. 3:13), the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:17-34), Singing (Matt. 26:30; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and the Contribution to aid the poor and spread the Gospel (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2). This is all very simple, but it is an expression of the divine will. Hence, a church of Christ could assemble on the Lord's Day and engage by divine authority in reading the Scriptures, mutual exhortation (the exhorting was not all done by one man-1 Cor. 14:26-33), singing God's praises, prayer and thanksgiving, partaking of the Lord's Supper, and giving as God had prospered the worshippers.

This is the worship which God ordained; but, in after ages, as history shows, man became tired of this simple worship, turned away from it, and arranged the worship according to his own wisdom and taste. Departures, however, from the original, simple worship were at first gradual. Even in the fourth century, as Mosheim informs us, it could still be said: "The Christian worship consisted in hymns, prayers, the reading of the Scriptures, a discourse addressed to the people, and concluded with the celebration of the Lord's Supper." (Mosheim, Vol. I, p. 303) But in the second and third centuries, the seeds of a general perversion of God's order were sown, the "mystery of iniquity," which began to work in Paul's day (2 Thess. 2:7). became more manifest, and the way was opened for the establishment of legislative councils in the church. Soon the arrogant claim was set up that the church through its councils had the authority to change and make laws for the regulation of religious affairs. Acting upon this bold assumption of authority, it only required time for the establishment by law of any measure which the caprice of religious leaders might demand. Accordingly, without attempting a detailed account of the many modifications of the divine order, we may here observe the plain fact of history that man, by his own assumption of authority, introduced infant baptism, sprinkling and pouring to be substituted for baptism, burning incense, auricular confession, and instrumental music. It is an unquestionable fact of history that all these things originated with man, and not with God. Man chose to follow his own will and to make the service of God, in large measure, an external show for the entertainment of the people. Before the close of the fourth century, Mosheim informs us, "The public prayers had now lost much of that solemn and majestic simplicity that characterized them yin the primitive times, and which were, at present, degenerating into a vain and swelling bombast" (Vol. I, p. 304) During the same century, alluding to departures from the mutual exhortation taught in the New Testament, Fisher says: "The sermon in the fourth century became more rhetorical. Its brilliant thoughts or witty expressions were sometimes received with loud applause." (Church Hist., p. 120) And, to show the progress which will-worship had made by the sixteenth century, Mosheim says: "The public worship of the Deity was now no more than a pompous round of external ceremonies, the greatest part of which were insignificant and senseless, and much more adapted to dazzle the eyes than to touch the heart." (Vol. III, p. 22) Such is man's tendency to follow his own will instead of the will of God.

But, in the midst of the many perversions of the divine order, the special purpose now before us is to inquire into the origin of instrumental music in Christian worship. Did it originate with man, or with God? The only way to settle the question is to appeal to the facts in the case. The testimony is both clear and abundant; but, before introducing it, let us notice some important facts:

1. There is not a solitary instance of it in the worship of any church of the New Testament period.

2. Church historians, such as Eusebius, Neander, Mosheim, Jones, Schaff, and Fisher, make no mention of it for hundreds of years after Christ.

3. Today, however, it is found in many places in Christian worship. When, and by whose authority, was it introduced? We now call upon eminent witnesses to testify in the case.

I. The American Cyclopedia: "Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs into some of the churches of Westren Europe about 670; but the earliest trustworthy account is that of the one sent as a present by the Greek emperor Constantine Copronymus to Pepin, king of the Franks, in 755." (Vol. 12, p. 688).

II. Chamber's Encyclopaedia: The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian I in 666. In 757, a great organ was sent as a present to Pepin by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Copronymus, and placed in the church of St. Corneille at Compiegne. Soon after Charlemagne's time organs became common." (Vol. 7, p. 112).

III. Encyclopaedia Britannica: "Though the church from time to time appropriated the secular art-forms from their rise to their maturity, its chief authorities were always jealous of these advances, and issued edicts against them. So in 1322 Pope John XXII denounced the encroachments of counterpoint, alleging that the voluptuous harmony of 3ds and 6ths was fit but for profane uses." (Vol. 17, p. 84, Art, Music.)

IV. Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia: "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 .... The Reform Church discarded it; and though the church of Basel very early introduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly and after long hesitation." (Vol. 2, p. 1702)

V. Fessenden's Encyclopaedia: "1. Vocal music. This species, which is the most natural, may be considered to have existed before any other. It was continued by the Jews and it is the only kind that is permitted in the Greek and Scotch churches or with few exceptions, in dissenting congregations in England. The Christian rule requires its use both for personal and social edification, Eph. 5, Col. 3. The vocal music of the imperial choristers in St. Petersburg incomparably surpasses in sweetness and effect the sounds produced by the combined power of the most exquisite musical instruments. 2. Instrumental music is also of very ancient date, its invention being ascribed to Tubal, the sixth descendant from Cain. That instrumental music was not practiced by the primitive Christians, but was an aid to devotion of later times, is evident from church history." (p. 852, Art, Music).

VI. London Encyclopaedia: "Pope Vitalianus in 658 introduced the organ into the Roman churches to accompany the singers. Leo II in 682 reformed the singing of the psalms and hymns, accommodating the intonation of them to the manner in which they are sung or performed at the present day." (Vol. 15, p. 280, Art, Music).

The unanimity with which the learned authorities of this class testify, there being but slight variation as to exact dates, is worthy of note. But others, equally noted in their spheres, shall speak.

VII. Thomas Aquinas, surnamed the Angelic Doctor, one of the most learned scholastic doctors produced by the church of Rome in the thirteenth century, and a voluminous wrfiter, says:

"Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize." (Bingham's Ant., Vol. 3, p. 137)

VIII. Erasmus (Desiderius), a contemporary of Martin Luther and the most renowned classical scholar of his age, who is represented by high authority as "the most gifted and industrious pioneer of modern scholarship," says:

"We have brought into our churches a certain operose and theatrical music; such a confused, disorderly chattering of some words as I hardly think was ever heard in any of the Grecian or Roman theaters. The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes, and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them. Men run to church as to a theater, to have their ears tickled. And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time in learning these whinning tones." (Com. on 1 Cot. 14:19)

IX. John Calvin, the illustrious founder of the Presbyterian denomination says:

"Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the 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 (1 Cor. 14:16) .... What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?" (Com. on Psa. 33).

X. Theodore Beza, the great Genevan scholar and translator, who was a friend and coadjutor of Calvin, says:

"If the apostle justly prohibits the use of unknown tongues in the church, much less would he have tolerated these artificial musical performances which are addressed to the ear alone, and seldom strike the understanding even of the performers themselves." (Girardeau's Ins. Music, p. 166).

XI. The English Convocation, an ecclesiastical body in the Church of England composed of bishops and clergy with Upper and Lower houses, is an important witness in the case:

"In the beginning of the year 1562," says Hetherington, "a meeting of the Convocation was held, in which the subject of further reformation was vigorously discussed on both sides. (Here is one alteration that was proposed.) That the use of organs be laid aside. When the vote came to be taken, on these propositions, forty-three voted for them and thirty-five against; but when the proxies were counted, the balance was turned, the final state of the vote being fifty-eight for and fifty-nine against. Thus, it was determined by a single vote, and that the proxy of an absent person who did not hear the reasoning that the Prayer Book should remain unimproved, that there should be no further reformation, that there should be no relief granted to those whose consciences felt aggrieved by the admixture of human inventions in the worship of God." (Hetherington's Hist. Westmin. Assem. of Divines, p. 30).

Thus, the Church of England was at one time on the verge of excluding instrumental music from the worship, the practice being retained by a single vote.

According to Dr. Lightfoot, President of the Westminster Assembly of Divines from 1643 to 1649, sprinkling and pouring for baptism were voted on in precisely the same way, the practice in this instance also being retained by a single vote. This is a remarkable coincidence in the history of these two Romish relics.

XII. Joseph Bingham, the well known author of "Antiquities of the Christian Church" and said to be one of the most learned men the Church of England has ever produced, says:

"Music in churches is an ancient as the apostles, but instrumental music is not so." (Works, Vol. 3, p. 137).

XIII. Lyman Coleman, an accurate scholar and Presbyterian author says:

"The tendency of this (instrumental music) was to secularize the music of the church, and to encourage singing by a choir. Such musical accompaniments were gradually introduced; but they can hardly be assigned to a period earlier than the fifth and sixth centuries. Organs were unknown in church until the eighth or ninth century. Previous to this they had their place in the theater, slather than in the church. They were never regarded with favor in the Eastern church, and were vehemently opposed in many places in the West." (Primitive Church, pp. 376, 377).

XIV. Conybeare and Howson, two scholars of high repute in the Church of England, commenting on Eph. 5:19, say:

"Let your songs be, not the drinking songs of heathen feasts, but psalms and hymns; and their accompaniment, not the music of the lyre, but the melody of the heart." (Life and Epis. of Paul, Vol. 2, p. 408).

XV. Alexander Campbell, commenting on the use of instrumental music in Christian worship, says:

"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 mere toper or wine-bibber. A little alcohol, or genuine Cognac brandy, or good old Caderira is essential to the beverage to make it truly refreshing. So to those who have no real devotion or spirituality in them, and whose animal nature flags under the oppression of church service, I think 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 cowbell in a concert." (Mill. Har., Series IV, Vol. 1, p. 581 in Mem. of A. Campbell, p. 366).

XVI. Prof. John Girardeau, a Presbyterian and Professor in Columbia Theological Seminary, says:

"The church, although lapsing more and more into defection from the truth and into a corruption of apostolic practice, had no instrumental music for 1200 years (that is, it was not in general use before this time) .... the Calvinistic Reformed Church ejected it from its services as an element of Popery, even the Church of England having come very nigh to its extrusion from her worship .... It is heresy in the sphere of worship." (Instrumental Music, p. 179).

This list of witnesses might be extended, but the number introduced is sufficient to place the question of the origin of instrumental music in Christian worship beyond all doubt. But, along with these sixteen independent and reliable authorities, some of them world-renowned, I introduce one more witness as weightier than all the others combined. This witness comes in the person of Christ and His Inspired Apostles; and their testimony is found in the unanswerable fact that, notwithstanding instrumental music was used in the Jewish worship on up to their time, yet they deliberately set it aside and left it out of Christian worship. In this fact there is an undeniable expression of the will of God; and this of itself ought to settle the question. But, in addition to this significant fact, we now have the unanimous testimony of a half-dozen encyclopaedias and of leading scholars in different ages, all testifying to the historic fact that instrumental music in Christian worship originated with man, and not with God. If it is possible to settle any question by an appeal to facts, then this one is unquestionably settled.

Objections Considered

The following objections are sometimes urged:

1. That there is no specific command for carpets, pews, pulpits, baptisteries, chandeliers, and such like, and if it is not wrong to have these things, neither is it wrong to have instrumental music. But, the fact that these things are not named in the Bible is certainly no proof that something else not named therein is allowable; and, since some things not specifically named are, nevertheless, necessarily implied, it does not follow that because one thing not so named is allowable, therefore, another is. Be it distinctly understood, however, that if these things, like instrumental music, were a part of the worship, as we shall see further on that the latter is, it would be equally wrong to have them. It is wrong to do anything as worship to God which He does not command. But the cases are by no means parallel. The act performed in is baptistery is an act which God commands; but the act performed in playing on a musical instrument is an act which God did not command. Moreover, the act of baptism performed in a baptistery is the same act whether performed in a baptistery, a river, a lake, or a pond; but the act performed on a musical instrument is not the same act which is performed in singing, and which God commands. Singing and playing are two distinct acts; each can exist without the other, and God commands the one, but not the other. Those who play on musical instruments in Christian worship are, therefore, doing what God has nowhere commanded them to do. But, whether we baptize in a baptistery, preach the Word in a pulpit, listen to it sitting in a pew with or without as "many lights" burning as when Paul preached in Troas (Acts 20:8), or sing God's praises while the feet rest on a carpeted or carpet-less floor, we are in each case performing the act which God commands; but, in playing on a musical instrument we are not performing an act which God commands. In other words, we cannot baptize in a baptistery, preach the Word in a pulpit, listen to it in a pew, or sing God's praises in a house with or without a carpet or lights, without doing in each case what God commands; but we can play on a musical instrument without doing anything which God commands. If it be said we cannot sing psalms accompanied by a musical instrument without doing what God commands, I reply, this would not only be doing what God commands, but more than He commands; and if it be further claimed that in singing psalms accompanied by an instrument we are no more doing more than is commanded than when we preach in a pulpit, I reply that the cases are not parallel for the reason that the pulpit or its equivalent — a place to occupy while preaching — is necessarily implied in the command to preach, since this command cannot be obeyed without being obeyed in some place; but neither a musical instrument nor its equivalent is implied in the command to sing, since this command can be obeyed without playing on an instrument or doing anything equivalent to it. Place is a necessary incidental in obeying the commands to preach, hear preaching, baptize, and sing; but instrumental music is not a necessary incidental in obeying the command to sing. It is another kind of music which may or may not accompany vocal music. In preaching, we are not compelled to have a pulpit, but we are compelled to have its equivalent — a place to occupy; in hearing preaching we are not compelled to have pews, but we are compelled to have their equivalent — a place to occupy; we are not compelled to have a carpeted floor, but we are compelled to have some kind of a floor wherever we worship, and no kind is specified either with or without a carpet; we are not compelled to have a baptistery, but we are compelled to have its equivalent — a place in which to baptize. Such things are not explicitly, but implicitly, commanded. The only reason, therefore, that these things or their equivalents are contended for is because they are necessarily implied in what is commanded, and we are compelled to have them; but instrumental music is not implied in the command to sing, and we are neither compelled to have it nor anything equivalent to it. The attempt to classify these things together is, therefore, a pitiable subterfuge.

2. It is objected that musical instruments are on a par with tuning forks, notebooks, and hymn-books, and that they all stand or fall together. Here again the cases are not parallel as is clearly shown by an examination of the office filled by each. For instance, the tuning fork stops before the singing or act of worship begins. If an organ were only used to pitch the tune there would be nothing wrong in its use, because we are commanded to sing, and we cannot sing without pitch. Whatever is essential to doing a command is involved in the command, but pitching the tune is essential to doing the command to sing; therefore, pitching the tune is involved in the command to sing. No difference whether it be pitched with the voice, a tuning fork, a pitch pipe, or any other way, the thing that is done, viz., pitching the tune, is involved in the command to sing. Moreover, when a tuning fork is used to pitch the tune, nothing is done in singing that is not done without it, pitching the tune being the only thing done with the tuning fork, which is done in singing without the fork, for it is impossible to sing without pitching the tune. But when a musical instrument is used with the singing, something is done that is not done without it, viz., another kind of music is made simultaneously with that made by the human voice. It is praising God with two kinds of music where God himself has chosen and appointed only one kind.

The same principle applies to the use of notebooks. In using notes, no act is performed that is not performed without them, and nothing accompanies the singing that does not also accompany it without them; but in using musical instruments, an act is performed that is not performed without them, and something does accompany the singing, viz., instrumental music, which does not accompany it without them. By no sort of reasoning can it be shown that playing on an instrument and singing are so related that singing involves playing, or its equivalent; but it can be shown that musical notes and singing are so related that singing involves either the notes or their equivalent. This is seen in the following reasoning: We are commanded to sing; but we cannot sing without a tune; therefore, the tune is involved in the command to sing. Again: a tune cannot be sung without length and pitch of tones are indicated; but notes, or their equivalent, are essential to indicating length and pitch of tones; therefore, notes or their equivalent are essential to singing a tune. If it be said that many persons sing who do not know the notes, it is sufficient to reply that they learned the tune either directly or indirectly from someone who got it from the notes. The principle is the same whether the tune be learned directly or remotely from the notes. A tune cannot exist without notes or their equivalent. The notes simply indicate length and pitch of tone which are essential to either vocal or instrumental music. If it be objected that the instrument gives the tune to the ear just as the notes do to the eye, I reply, this is a mistake. The instrument has to get the tune from the notes just as does the leader of the singing. This is an artful sophism, founded on an egregious blunder. The tune exists before it is played on the instrument. But, it may be asked, it a tune were improvised on an instrument, would not that be a case of the ear getting the tune from the instrument? By no means. Though a multitude of ears might hear it, it could only be an instrumental solo, no one knowing the tune but the performer, from whose soul comes the tune, and not from the instrument. If it could be said of musical instruments as it can be of musical notes, that their use results in nothing but singing, there would be nothing wrong in using them, for we are commanded to sing; but their use produces another kind of music which we are not only not commanded to have, but which the Lord excluded from Christian worship. That the two cases are not parallel, those who will open their eyes to the facts can plainly see.

As to hymnbooks, we are commanded to sing hymns, and the hymnbook is simply the hymns, just as your bound Bible is the Word of God. Hymns are none the less hymns whether they are in manuscript or in a printed volume, just as the Word of God is none the less the Word of God whether it is in manuscript or in a printed volume. In each case, you have what God commands.

3. It is further objected that instrumental music, like some of the things just mentioned, is only an aid to and not a part of the worship. But God's Word plainly and forever settles this point. However, let us first inquire, what is done with the instruments in worship today that was not done with them in the Jewish worship? Nothing whatever. They enter into the worship today just as they did then, and are used with other parts of the worship just as they were then. Now let us hear the decision of God's Word in the case. Under the old dispensation where instruments were used, we have the following: "And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also, and the trumpets, together with the instruments of David, King of Israel; and all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and trumpeters sounded; and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished." (2 Chron. 29:27, 28) Thus, some were offering the sacrifice, others were singing, and others were sounding the instruments of music; but God through the inspired record says they were all worshipping. What shall we say? Under the same dispensation, David said: "Upon the harp will I praise thee, 0 God, my God." (Psa. 43:4); and among the closing words of the book of Psalms, we have the following: "Praise him with the sound of the trumpet; praise him with the psaltery and harp; praise him with stringed instruments and the pipe." (Psa. 150:3, 4). Thus, God's Word simply declares that when instrumental music is used in the worship, it is a part of that worship, and no cunning sophism can conceal the fact. Moreover, according to the teaching of Jesus, it is vain worship today, because it is not commanded by the Lord. Those who introduce it with other human devices and that the progressive age in which we are living makes into the worship of God claim to be advanced thinkers, it necessary to be thus "progressive" in religious worship. This would all do, if God had left the worship to be variously arranged according to the pleasure of man in different ages; but this He has not done. On the contrary, God has not only arranged the worship Himself for His people in every age, stating explicitly what they shall do in that worship, but He has also plainly said: "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God." (2 Jno. 9, Rev. Vers.) Thus, while progression is right within the limits of God's Word, it is wrong to "go onward" beyond that Word; and Paul specifically declares that what he wrote concerning divisions in the church at Corinth, was that Christians "might learn not to go beyond the things which are written." (1 Con 4:6, Rev. Vers. \ Let us abide by this decision.

Thus, by an array of historic facts and scholarly testimony from various sources, we have now seen that instrumental music in Christian worship is a human device introduced hundreds of years after Christ; that, although it was tolerated in the Jewish worship, it was excluded from Christian worship by Christ and inspired apostles; that it is one of the many relics of Rome adopted by the Romish hierarchy in the absence of any authority from the New Testament; that its introduction was to gratify the desire for pleasure and entertainment; and that the practice was vehemently opposed by pious and learned men, and did not become general till after the thirteenth century. And yet in the face of such overwhelming and irresistible testimony, we are not only confronted with the sad spectacle of churches introducing this practice when they know it is an obstacle in the way of union; but, those who decline to follow this and similar departures from the Word of God, choosing to render simply the worship prescribed in the New Testament, are often denounced in unbrotherly terms by advocates of this innovation. May God help them to see their mistake.

Finally, one thing is incontrovertibly settled: those who adopt this practice are, to that extent, guided by the wisdom of man, and not by the wisdom of God; and they thus openly violate the plain and positive requirement of the Lord that His followers shall walk by faith.