Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1961
NUMBER 40, PAGE 1,12-13a

Music Divinely Appointed For True Worshipers (II.)

Cecil B. Douthitt, Fort Smith, Ark.

2. History of instrumental music since the church was established.

Instrumental music in the worship is not authorized in the New Covenant, but adding to the word of God is clearly forbidden. (2 John 9; Revelation 22:18; Gal. 1:8-9)

We cannot learn in the New Testament just when instrumental music was introduced into Christian worship; because that document is silent regarding that kind of music in the worship. If the best church histories and standard encyclopedias are not reliable, we have no way of determining the date of its introduction. But having never had any cause for impeaching the veracity and competency of our historians regarding this matter, I wish to give just here a few quotations from a few encyclopedias:

"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." (Fessenden's Encyclopedia, p. 852, Art. Music.)

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

"The organ is said to have been introduced into church music by Pope Vatican 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." (Chamber's Encyclopedia, Vol. 7, p. 112)

"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." (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 1702)

"Pope Vitalianus in 658 introduced the organ into the Roman churches to accompany the singers." (London Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, p. 280)

Thus we see a remarkable coincidence between the introduction of instrumental music into Jewish worship and its introduction into Christian worship. This innovation came into Jewish worship after God's government had been exchanged for human government; it came into Christian worship after the supreme and sole reign of Christ had been exchanged for the papacy, and the Roman pontiff had exalted "himself against all that is called God,....setting himself forth as God."

3. Testimony of scholars.

Only in recent years has instrumental music come to be accepted without question in Protestant denominations.

Practically every denomination now using instrumental music in its worship introduced it over the protest of some of its most profound Bible scholars. Some of the greatest religious teachers the world has ever seen have bitterly opposed it. John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian denomination, said that musical instruments in worship would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. John Wesley, said he had no objection to them in Methodist chapels, provided they were neither heard nor seen. Adam Clarke, illustrious commentator, said that he believed instrumental music in the worship was against the will of God. C. H. Spurgeon, a world-renowned Baptist preacher, speaking of mechanical instruments said: "We do not need them; they would hinder rather than help our praise." "We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it." Alexander Campbell said that, to all spiritually minded Christian, instrumental music in the worship would be as a cow-bell in a concert. J. W. McGarvey said it was one of the latest corruptions of the Roman apostasy.

4. Psallo.

In defense of the unscriptural use of mechanical instruments in worship, some have made the unscholarly claim that the idea of mechanical instruments inheres in the Greek verb "Psallo," which is translated "making melody" in Eph. 5:19. I shall give you a few reasons why I believe that claim to be unscholarly and erroneous.

1. About 150 men, who represented the cream of the scholarship of their generations, gave us the King James and Revised versions of the New Testament. There is nothing in either of these translations to indicate that the idea of mechanical instrumentation inheres in the word "psallo." If playing on a mechanical instrument had been the New Testament meaning of this word, these scholars would have so translated it, or would have merely Anglicized it, instead of translating it so as to carry no idea of mechanical instrumentation.

2. No commandment of the New Testament can be obeyed short of anything and everything that the meaning of that commandment requires. If mechanical instrumental music inheres in the word "psallo," we cannot psallein without mechanical instruments. So far as I know all admit that we can psallein without mechanical instruments. Even a tyro in logic ought to be able to see the inconsistency between this admission and the claim that mechanical instruments inhere in the term "psallo."

3. That the word "psallo" as used by the apostle, primarily means to pluck, or cause to vibrate, is admitted by all. It is impossible to make melody without plucking or causing something to vibrate. But the point of controversy is: What is to be plucked or cause to vibrate? And how is this melody to be made? There are many things that may be caused to vibrate, and many ways of making melody; but Eph. 5:19 clearly states that this "melody" is to be made by "speaking" or singing" and that the instrument to be plucked or caused to vibrate is the human heart. Therefore, by God's law of exclusion, this melody cannot be made in the human heart, except by "singing." Every kind of music, except singing, in which the heart is plucked or caused to vibrate, is excluded from the worship by the same law.

The Greek Orthodox Church has never practiced instrumental music. They speak the original Greek, and say by their practice that "psallo" does not imply the mechanical instrument. "In the year 608 there was some Greeks who tried to introduce the organ into the church, but in a synod in which there were some two hundred and eighty bishops it was repudiated as not being authorized by their mother tongue." (Boswell - Hardeman Debate, p. 187)

4. Whistling and humming were never divinely authorized for worship in any dispensation. In order that all may be edified Paul teaches that speaking, praying and singing in the church should be done in a language that all can understand. He said, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also." (1 Cor. 14:15) How can humming and whistling be any better than singing in an unknown tongue when no words are understood in any of these things. Does humming or whistling or even yodeling a tune edify any more than singing in a language that the hearers do not understand? Can either humming or whistling or yodeling accomplish one thing more than singing in an unknown language?

In Eph. 5:19 worshipers are commanded to "speak" in songs. Words are no more spoken in humming or whistling or yodeling than they are spoken by piano music.

In Col. 3:16 one of the expressed purposes of singing is to teach and admonish one another; but how can there be any teaching or admonishing in instrumental music, or whistling or humming or yodeling?

Though the Bible nowhere says, "Thou shalt not do these things," nevertheless they are all three forbidden by God's law of exclusion.

III. God's Law Of Exclusion

About four hundred years ago two great religious reformers, Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, failed to agree on a principle that caused each to go his separate way. Luther believed that all things were acceptable in the worship and service to God, except the things expressly forbidden by the scriptures. According to Luther's view things regarding which the Bible is silent are permissible in the worship of God. But Zwingli believed that all things regarding which the Bible is silent are forbidden by God's law of exclusion and must be left out of the worship.

Unity among worshipers can never exist until this issue is settled, and settled right. Are all things excluded from the worship and service of God, except the acts specified and the things necessary in performing them? Does God have such a law of exclusion? What saith the Scriptures?

God told Noah to make the ark of gopher wood. The kind of wood was specified. Though God did not say, "Thou shalt not use oak or pine," are we to conclude that Noah was at liberty to use them in addition to gopher wood in building the ark? Certainly not; when God specified the kind to be used that excluded his using any other kind of wood.

God told Moses to bring water from the rock by speaking to it. (Numbers 20:7-13) In addition to speaking to it, Moses acted on the principle that he could do that which was not expressly forbidden, so he struck the rock. He violated God's law of exclusion and God's displeasure was manifested in the death of Moses.

In naming bread and fruit of the vine as elements of the Lord's supper (Luke 22:19,20) the Lord thereby excluded the meat of the passover feast, and it was not necessary for him to say, "Thou shalt not eat mutton in the worship."

"Singing" is designated by the Lord in Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 as the kind of music to be made by true worshipers. If there is any such thing at all as "God's law of exclusion," instrumental is forbidden by the command to sing.

In both of these passages spiritual songs are specified as the kind that must be sung by true worshipers; therefore all hillbilly songs, love songs, cowboy songs and patriotic songs are excluded by the term "spiritual."

These two passages (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) specify and require that speaking, teaching and admonishing one another be in the melody that is made. "Making melody" by whistling, humming, yodeling or playing on an instrument is forbidden by God's law of exclusion, because there can be no teaching, admonishing or speaking in these three kinds of melody.

These things are not sinful within themselves and therefore are not forbidden in exercises and performances of a social or entertainment or pastime nature, but only from the worship of God.

For example, wedding performances are not exercises of spiritual worship. If they were services of worship, such songs as "Love You Truly" and "Here Comes the Bride" could not be sung, for they are not "spiritual songs" and therefore are forbidden in worship by God's law of exclusion; tunes could not be hummed or whistled; there could be no lighting of candles as a part of the performance; there could be no instrumental music. All these things may be done in weddings and such like; they are excluded only from the worship of God. If the people of God are permitted to do all things in worship that they are permitted to do in weddings and social exercises, then the worshipers could sing such songs as "The Indian Love Call" in the worship of God.

IV. Objections

We conclude therefore that there is no scriptural authority for any kind of music or melody in church worship, except singing of spiritual songs with grace in the heart.

The weak and beggarly attempt to justify by certain prophetic statements of David's psalms any music or melody other than that produced by speaking in spiritual songs has failed obviously. It stands as a biblical fact without exception that when a New Testament writer makes mention of music as a fulfillment of prophecy or promise of the Old Testament that he specifically names singing as the fulfillment of that prophecy or promise; as in Rom. 15:9, "Therefore will I give praise unto thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name."

1. Faith comes by hearing God's word. (Rom. 10:17) God's word says nothing about instrumental music in Christian worship. Therefore it cannot be of faith. "What-so ever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23)

2. Jesus said that, in order to worship God acceptably, we must worship in spirit and truth. (Jno. 4:24) The rue worship c a n only be determined by the precedent of apostolic practice. The apostles did everything that the meaning of true worship requires or permits. Instrumental music was not a part of their worship. Then it can be no part of our worship.

3. Jesus says that obedience to the precepts of men constitutes vain worship. (see Matt. 15:9) God does not authorize instrumental music in Christian worship by either precept or example. Then it must be a precept of man and is, therefore, vain worship.

4. We cannot worship God acceptably by images "graven by art and device of man." (Acts 17:22-31) Instrumental music is an item of worship "graven by art and device of man;" that is, it is man's invention; it is man's commandment; It is a work of man's contrivance. We can no more worship God by a commandment carved by an uninspired hand, than we can worship Him by an image carved by an uninspired had. He is not served by men's hands.

Jehovah has greater delight in humble obedience to His voice than He has in anything that man can devise by his own ingenuity. "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphin." (1 Sam. 15:22, 23)

May the Lord keep back all His servants from presumptuous sins.