"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.V No.I Pg.2-3
August 1942

The Instrumental Music Question

Cled E. Wallace

The question of instrumental music in the worship is supposed to be "a dead issue" but about the time some wishful thinker gets ready to bury it, the corpse gasps or wiggles its toes and the interment has to be postponed. The advocates of the practice agree that they want it and are going to have it, but they cannot agree on the grounds that justify its use. It is about time for them to settle on Henry Ward Beecher's famous ox-yoke argument for infant baptism. It works and therefore it must be all right. The conflicting arguments that leaders have used have been no slight source of embarrassment. This is reflected in the rank and file, who occasionally, or oftener, break into "The Readers' Forum" of the Christian Standard to express their views on the question. Sometime back I paid my respects to one brother who expressed himself this way:

"After reading the debate published some time ago in the Christian Standard, I can see but one conclusion to come to, and that is there is no scripture in the New Testament either for or against the use of music in church worship. In such cases, I think we are all agreed that the local church has the right to decide its method of procedure in the case."

I think I made it quite clear that "we are" not "all agreed" to any such thing and that for good reasons. About the time I got that all fixed up in apple pie order, along comes another issue of the Christian Standard and another advocate of instrumental music in worship insists that "we" ought to "let the Word settle the question of instrumental music." Now, according to my idea, that is the way to "settle" things like that and here is the brother's say-so on the question:

"Go To The Word"

"As we are supposed to be a people who speak where the Bible speaks, why not let the Word settle the question of instrumental music.

In Matthew 6, the Lord taught His disciples to pray, `Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.'

Anything done in heaven must be according to the Father's will, and as we are plainly taught there is music in heaven with instruments, would this not be a command to use instruments?

Why then, can man teach the use of instruments is sin, when nowhere has it been so shown in the Word?

Let us cease teaching for commandments the opinions of men, but go to the Word for the answer which is final authority."

One brother finds nothing in the New Testament "for" it, while another finds a plain command for it. They both use it which goes to show that it is really a waste of time to appeal to the scriptures, for even should the word be silent on the matter, he who wants it will find some sort of reason to use it anyway.

As between him who appeals to the word and him who appeals to the vote of "the local church" my sympathies are decidedly with the former. He is decidedly on the right track. If the scriptures command it, then we should by all means practice it and not dare to neglect it. But it seems to me he squeezes too hard on "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" in an effort to force something out of it that isn't in it. That is a bad sign, about as bad as ignoring the word altogether. If he is going to literalize the whole book of Revelation and bring everything into the church that book locates in heaven, he will have to make room for a "golden altar" and "a golden censor" to go along with the "music in heaven with instruments." Since the word "is final authority" he ought not to neglect some of the commands of God like that. Does he burn incense on a golden altar in the church where he worships?

The brother is right who says that there is nothing in the New Testament "for" the use of instrumental music in worship. That is plenty "against" it. I'm "against" what the New Testament is not "for" in both doctrine and worship.

Dr. Frederick D. Kershner, who is always readable and often wrong, according to my lights, has some interesting things to say in a late issue of the Christian Standard about J. B. Briney, now deceased, and gives him a place in "the long list of immortals born in the month of February." Brother Kershner's remarks about Brother Briney are the more interesting to me, because it happens that for years I read much that he wrote and followed some of the discussions he engaged in with peculiar delight. Much that he says about Brother Briney coincides with my estimate of the man.

"Briney was tall, vigorous and active. He had a good voice and never spoke a word which he did not fully and completely mean. He never evaded anybody or anything. He said exactly what he believed and made no apologies for doing so. He was violently disliked by the anti-organ-and-society groups in the South, and was equally disliked by the radical and critical folk in the North. Briney gave no quarter to either side and never asked for any."

A man with outspoken courage, who does not dodge a fight is likely to be "violently disliked by" some who disagree with him, whether he be right or wrong. It is the natural reaction of small souls to anybody who crosses them or steps on them and Brother Briney was not averse at times to stepping on somebody. Withal I think the violent dislike "the anti-organ-and-society groups in the South" entertained toward Brother Briney is somewhat exaggerated. I am fairly well acquainted with what Dr. Kershner is talking about. It is in a measure true that Brother Briney "mercilessly flayed his antagonists," or rather what Brother Kershner calls "their illogical defenses," but it hardly does justice to what happened in some cases to say that he "only irritated" them and aroused their dislike. Fights waxed pretty hot in those days even between gentlemen like Briney and Kurfees and Brother Briney often got "mercilessly flayed" in the region of his "illogical defenses" and I often admired the poise and good humor he displayed under fire. He was a worthy antagonist who could take it as well as give it, and in my judgment he took considerably more than he gave when he locked horns with Brother Kurfees. The evidence is still in book form. In the interest of "the unity movement" which seems to be about ready for the undertaker, it may be that Brother Kershner ought to give Brother Kurfees a place among his "Comets and Constellations." Briney and Kurfees impressed me that in the midst of a pitched battle they had a wholesome respect for each other, remarkably free from personal rancor. Possibly more on both sides of the controversy than Brother Kershner knows about shared this respect.

Brother Kershner thinks that with the possible exception of John S. Sweeney, Brother Briney was "the greatest debater which the Disciples have thus far produced" since Alexander Campbell. He however observes that

"Most of his debates, however, were with the people he delighted to call antis' and who liked to style him a digressive.' He never got very far with any of these wrangles, at least if one may judge by immediate results."

It would not occur to me on first thought, or last either, that engaging in "wrangles" "most of" the time would entitle a man to be named the greatest debater since Campbell. I think Brother Kershner does Brother Briney an injustice. He was not a wrangler. He was a good debater and did the best work his side of the controversy ever produced on the music question. That "he never got very far with any of these" efforts was not Brother Briney's fault. He did the best he could with what he had to do with. He had a rough time trying to prove that the New Testament authorized an innovation in the realm of worship, or allowed or permitted one it said nothing about. This was truly an impossible task when he had a man of M. C. Kurfees' caliber after him. The results of "these wrangles" were thrillingly satisfactory to "the anti-organ-and-society groups in the South" and we are at no loss whatever to appreciate the keen disappointment the organ-and-society groups experienced. A general feeling of futility settled over them. If Brother Briney could not do it, there was no use of anybody else trying. Since Briney the fight to defend the use of instrumental music in worship has been an anti-climax and efforts have been made to win by strategy what could not be won by argument. The Murch-Witty Unity Meetings, now deceased, are a case in point. No man of Brother Briney's caliber can be found throughout the ranks of digression who will make an effort strong enough to "even irritate his antagonists," Most of them are now busy evading everything and everybody and "apologies" are the order of the day, I miss Brother Briney. I wish we had him back. We do not have enough opposition left to even keep in practice on.

As good a writer as Brother Kershner is, he sometimes drives at a nail and misses the whole plank. He says that when Brother Briney left Tennessee

"which was one of his great debating arenas, the non-progressives so disliked him that it was impossible for any of the more liberal representatives even to establish a truce with them."

He declares that

"The non-progressives looked upon him as the very incarnation of radicalism and an absolute demon of progressiveness, but in the progressive group proper his views were regarded as the double-dyed essence of conservatism."

I recognize the fact that there are extremists on both sides of any great controversy who say, feel and do things that are indefensible, and that even a near-lunatic as some deem me to be, could not endorse. But in this case if Brother Kershner was driving at a nail the head was on the wrong end, or else the nail was made for the opposite wall. It was not any dislike for Brother Briney that made "a truce with them" impossible. The issue involved ran deeper and still runs deeper than personal likes and dislikes. Some of us who rather liked the snorting old war-horse and entertained a sly admiration for him would not for a moment have considered establishing a truce with him. He was wrong in his contention. Still less would we consider establishing a truce with "any of the more liberal representatives" of digression. If I entertain any personal dislikes toward any, they are welcome to all of it. I do not like their oily, unctuous and compromising ways. I prefer somebody like Brother Briney who "never evaded anybody or anything" but "said exactly what he believed and made no apologies for doing so." These "more liberal representatives" remind me of the fellow who ran smack into a cross-eyed man. Said the cross-eyed man: "Why don't you look where you're going?" Said the other fellow: "Why don't you go where you're looking?" I'd prefer to deal with a straightforward man like Brother Briney was. I did not agree with him but you could tell where he was looking.


Sighting-In Shots

Sects are about as numerous as were gods in Athens when Paul strolled its streets. Some of them are cold and formal hangovers from enthusiastic movements of the past, the forms remaining, the power all gone. Modernism has played havoc with many of the creeds and the effects resemble sleeping sickness. There is evidence that rationalism has been more benefited by this operation than has the cause of true religion. The masses have become confused or stupefied and are not ready subjects for the pure gospel as it is revealed in the New Testament. It is hard to get them to listen and harder to get them to heed. Even so, the cause of truth moves forward. The gospel is winning its victories here and there.

A modern reaction to modernism is stranger than modernism itself. Fanatical groups have sprung up everywhere and one can only wonder at the names they bear and the emotional excesses they practice. They are not to be reasoned with, even from the scriptures, for they have a feeling somewhere down in the general neighborhood of where they digest their food that gives them all the assurance they want. Some of them have not a doubt that they can reproduce the miracles and gifts of the Spirit we read about in the New Testament. The absence of objective testimony to support their claims does not seem to embarrass them for they are intoxicated on subjective experience. They claim to devoutly believe the Bible, but why they need one, or want one, if their claims are conceded, I do not know,

Some of these modern claimants to miraculous powers are somewhat waspy. I had a long letter from one following a sermon I preached on the mission and work of the Holy Spirit. He wrote a very good hand, quoted and misapplied scriptures fluently. He was obviously not in a sweet humor as he called me a deceiver, a blasphemer, a falsifier and a dog and cited sundry scripture quotations with the obvious intent to prove his personal charges. I inferred that he could speak in tongues but noticed that he misspelled the word "evangilist." Possibly the modern gifts of the Spirit should include spelling as well as interpretation, or else the recipients should confine themselves to vocal activities. Then their rhetoric would betray them. The modern subjects on whom the Spirit is said to be prodigal in the bestowment of his gifts should arouse suspicion—and they do when they either write or talk.—C. E. W.