Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 11, 1955
NUMBER 14, PAGE 10,11a

Adam Clarke On Church Music

Jesse M. Kelley, Lafayette, Louisiana

In Adam Clarke's "Christian Theology," a book published by G. Lane and P. P. Sandford of New York in 1842, this scholar has an entire chapter devoted to church music which is very interesting. We copy a part of it here for our readers. We think it is worthy of note especially since Mr. Clarke was a recognized scholar and preacher in the Methodist Church.

"It is very likely that the singing of the Jews was only a kind of recitative or chanting, such as we still find in the synagogues. It does not appear that God had especially appointed these singers, much less any musical instruments, the silver trumpets excepted, to be employed in his service. Musical instruments in the house of God are, at least, under the gospel, repugnant to the spirit of Christianity, and tend not a little to corrupt the worship of God. Those who are fond of music in the theatre are fond of it in the house of God, when they go thither; and some, professing Christianity, set up such a spurious worship, in order to draw people to hear the gospel. This is doing evil, that good may come of it; and, by this means, light and trifling people are introduced into the church of Christ; and, when in, are generally very troublesome, hard to be pleased, and difficult to be saved.

"Did God ever ordain instruments of music to be used in his worship? Can they be used in Christian assemblies according to the spirit of Christianity? Has Jesus Christ, or his apostles, ever commanded or sanctioned the use of them? Were they ever used anywhere in the apostolic church? Does the use of them at present, in Christian congregations, ever increase the spirit of devotion? Does it ever appear that bands of musicians, either in their collective or individual capacity, are more spiritual, or as spiritual, as the other parts of the church of Christ? Is there more pride, self-will, stubbornness, insubordination, lightness, and frivolity, among such persons, than among the other professors of Christianity found in the same religious society? Is it ever remarked or known that musicians, in the house of God, have ever attained to any depth of piety, or superior soundness of understanding, in the things of God? Is it ever found that those churches and Christian societies which have and use instruments of music in divine worship, are more holy, or as holy, as those societies which do not use them? And is it always found that the ministers who affect and recommend them to be used in the worship of almighty God, are the most spiritual men, and the most spiritual and useful preachers? Can mere sounds, no matter how melodious, where no word or sentiment is or can be uttered, be considered as giving praise to God? Is it possible that pipes or strings of any kind can give God praise? Can God be pleased with sounds which are emitted by no sentient being, and have in themselves no meaning? If these questions cannot be answered in the affirmative, then is not the introduction of such instruments into the worship of God antichristian, calculated to debase and ultimately ruin the spirit and influences of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? And should not all who wish well to the spread and establishment of pure and undefiled religion lift up their hand, their influence, and their voice against them? The argument from their use in the Jewish service is futile in the extreme, when applied to Christianity.

"In a representative system of religion, such as the Jewish, there must have been much outside work, all emblematical of better things; no proof that such things should be continued under the gospel dispensation, where outsides have disappeared, shadows flown away, and the substance alone is presented to the hearts of mankind. He must be ill off for proofs in favour of instrumental music in the church of Christ, who has recourse to practices under the Jewish ritual!

"Moses had not appointed any musical instruments to be used in the divine worship; there was nothing of the kind under the first tabernacle. The trumpets, or horns, then used, were not for song, nor for praise, but, as we use bells, to give notice to the congregation of what they were call to perform, etc. But David did certainly introduce many instruments of music into God's worship; for which, we have already seen, he was solemnly reproved by the prophet Amos, chap. 4:1-6. Here, however, the author of this book states he had the commandment of the Prophet Nathan, and Gad, the king's seer; and this is stated to have been the commandment of the Lord by his prophets. But the Syriac and Arabic give this a different turn: "Hezekiah appointed the Levites in the house of the Lord, with instruments of music, and the sound of harps, and with the hymns of David, and the hymns of Gad, the king's prophet; for David sang the praises of the Lord his God, as from the mouth of the prophets." It was by the hand or commandment of the Lord and his prophets, that the Levites should praise the Lord; for so the Hebrew text may be understood; and it was by the order of David that so many instruments of music should be introduced into the divine service. But were it even evident, which it is not, either from this or any other place in the sacred writings, that instruments of music were prescribed by divine authority under the law, could this be adduced with any semblance of reason that they ought to be used in Christian worship ? No, the whole spirit, soul, and genius of the Christian religion are against this; and those who know the church of God best, and what constitutes its genuine spiritual state, know that these things have been introduced as a substitute for the life and power of religion, and that where they prevail most there is least of the power of Christianity. Away with such portentous baubles from the worship of that infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth! for to no such worship are those instruments friendly.

"I have no doubt but the gross perversion of the simplicity of Christian worship, by the introduction of various instruments of music into churches and chapels, if not a species of idolatry, will at least rank with will-worship and superstitious rites and ceremonies. Where the Spirit and unction of God do not prevail in Christian assemblies, priests and people being destitute of both, their place, by general consent, is to be supplied by imposing ceremonies, noise, and show.

"The Church at Rome, in every country where it either prevails or exists, has so blended a pretended Christian devotion and heathenish and Jewish rites and ceremonies, two parts of which are borrowed from pagan Rome, the third from the Jewish ritual ill understood, and grossly misrepresented, and the fourth part from other corruptions of the Christian system. Nor is the Protestant church yet fully freed from a variety of matters in public worship which savours little of that simplicity and spirituality which should ever designate the worship of that infinitely pure Spirit who cannot be pleased with any thing incorporated with his worship that has not been prescribed by himself, and has not a direct tendency to lead the heart from earth and sensual things to heaven, and to that holiness without which none shall see the Lord. The singing, as it is practiced in several places, and the heathenish accompaniments of organs and musical instruments of various sorts, are as contrary to the simplicity of the gospel, and the spirituality of that worship which God requires, as darkness is contrary to light. And if these abuses are not corrected, I believe the time is not far distant when singing will cease to be a part of the divine worship. It is now, in many places, such as cannot be said to be any part of that worship which is in spirit and according to truth. May God mend it!"