Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 11, 1962
NUMBER 35, PAGE 6-7,11a

Walking By Faith - (II.)

M. C. Kurfees

"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 22:41) 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 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; 1 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 mall, 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 in 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 History, 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 CYCLOPAEDIA: — "Pope Vitalian 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 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 ENCYCLOPEDIA: — "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, Copronymus, and placed in the church of St. Corneille at Compiegne. Soon after Charlemagne's time organs became common." Vol. 7 p, 112.

III. ENCYCLOPEDIA 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 ENCYCLOPEDIA: — "In the Greek church the organ never came into use. But after the eight century it became more and more common in the Latin church; not, however, without opposition from the side of the monks.... The Reformed 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 ENCYCLOPEDIA: — "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 powers 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 ENCYCLOPEDIA: — "Pope Vitalianus in 685 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 writer, 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 theatres. 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 theatre, 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 whining tones." Com. on 1 Cor. 14;19.

IX. JOHN CALVIN, the illustrious founder of the Presbyterian denomination, says: "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of 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 for 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 say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound?" Com. on Psa. 33.

X. THEODORE BEZA, the 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 he 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 Div. 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 the Church of England has ever produced says: "Music in churches is as ancient as the apostles, but instrumental music 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 eight or ninth century. Previous to this they had their place in the theatre, rather 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. 367, 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 the 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 Madeira 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 pre-requisite 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 4, Vol. 1, p. 581. in Mem. of A. Campbell, p 366.

XVI. PROF. JOHN GIRARDENA, a Presbyterian and Professor in Columbia Theological Seminary, says:

"The church, although lapsed 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." Ins. 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 question. But, in addition to this significant fact, we now have the unanimous testimony of a half dozen encyclopedias 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.