Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 9, 1956
NUMBER 39, PAGE 8-9a

Instrumental Music In Christian Worship

Moses E. Lard (Apostolic Times)

In preparing the present paper for the press, I am performing a task in which I feel no pleasure. For making this remark I have two reasons: First, I do not wish my name to be in any way prominently connected with the organ controversy. The conspicuity to be gained by such connection is one I do not seek. The subject, with me, is a paltry one, wholly devoid of magnitude, except for mischief. I hence decline to be connected with it, except to oppose it. Secondly, It is not agreeable to me to have to notice the injustice done me by Brother Lamar in connection with the organ. Personal controversies seldom end in good; and they are rarely, if ever pleasant.

With these few preliminaries, I proceed to cite the first paragraph in Brother Lamar's second article. But before doing this, I have a reflection to offer upon the general character of the article. In the first place, the trivial style of the article is not justified by the spirit and tone of the article to which it is a reply. In the second, the air with which the brethren named in the last paragraph of the article are alluded to is discourteous, and is demanded by no facts in their lives known to Brother Lamar. They are not clowns that they deserve to be alluded to in the spirit of factious ridicule.

But Now For The Paragraph:

"From allusions to me by Brother Lard in the last Times, and by Brother Hawkins and the Editor in the previous issue, the readers of this paper, who do not also read the Standard, are doubtless ready to conclude that I have been behaving myself very badly. I must therefore, take occasion to say that the head and front of my offense was the publication in the Standard of Brother Lard's calm and cool position on the question of the organ. I also endorsed that position, and expressed my gratification that it would settle the vexed question upon correct principles. This was my sin."

Now let the reader note what Brother Lamar here says. He asserts that he published in the Standard my calm and cool position on the question of the organ. What is that published position? It is, in brief, that I class organs in the Church of Christ with "the eating of meats and the observance of days — things indifferent to themselves." Now I deny that this is my position or my classification. No such position ever escaped my lips or my pen. Brother Lamar's assertion is without the semblance of foundation.

On the contrary, my position briefly stated, not argued, is this: That the New Testament prescribes the whole of the worship ordained by Christ for his churches; and that instrumental music is not provided for in this prescription. That consequently it is unlawful; is a reflection upon the divine wisdom; is an innovation upon the divine order of God's house; and therefore can never be either innocent or a matter of indifference. This and this only is my position. Farther, I hold that instrumental music in Christ's churches stands on the same footing and belongs to the same class of things with wax candles, with images and with auricular confession — all inventions and innovations of the great apostasy. This is where I class organ music. A more complete misstatement of my position than Brother Lamar made, I could not imagine. It is not correct in one single feature.

But farther: In my brief reply to Brother Carr, I denied, in terms as mild and respectful as I could use, but still I denied that Brother Lamar had stated my true position. This denial Brother Lamar had seen when he wrote his second article. Yet in that article he declares that he published in the Standard my "calm and cool position on the question of the organ." Does Brother Lamar mean to imply in my face that my denial was false? He has done it, whether he meant it or not.

Again: when Brother Lamar labors to make it appear that my denial, after all, makes the organ "a matter of expediency," he acts the part of a special pleader, and fails to justify the good opinion I had formed of him. When I say in reply to a question containing the word expedient, that I regard the organ as wholly inexpedient — does this express the whole of my positive view of the organ? Brother Lamar knows that it does not. He knows that I regard the organ as wholly evil, and therefore as never expedient. Why then does he try to make me class it among things expedient? I am pained at his artifice.

Still again: Brother Lamar, in his second article, draws me as regarding the organ, when I am controlled by the logic of the case, as a matter of indifference, but as being, when giving expression to my feelings only, violently opposed to it. So then I am either a simpleton or a hypocrite, who can oscillate from this side to that, accordingly as this or that power moves me. This may have the effect to honor Brother Lamar, but I fail to see how. I wish I had never seen this piece of his writing.

But Brother Lamar alludes to a sermon he heard me preach in Lexington, and to my Commentary on Romans, apparently as though they justified the position he assigns me. The sermon was based on our duty in the matter of things revealed and in that of some things not revealed. It was while on this latter heading that I alluded to the organ; and the case I present was this: Suppose a church to be composed of three hundred members. Two hundred and ninety-nine of these propose to introduce the organ; while the remaining member declares himself grieved by the act. Can the organ be introduced? I insisted that it can not without a violation of love, as laid down by Paul, Romans 14, 15. This was the case I presented, and the only one; and this is the case presented in my Commentary. It is the case of a brother being grieved at the attempt to introduce an unauthorized element into the worship of God. I was not discussing, in my sermon, the organ question on its whole merits; neither do I attempt it in my Commentary. I was taking a special view of the case, no more. I hence never placed the organ question on a level with meats and days; nor did I even so much as hint that it is matter of indifference. Brother Lamar fails in duty both to my sermon and to my Commentary.

That Brother Lamar thought he had sufficient grounds for the position he assigned me in his first article, I shall not question. But when he saw my distinct denial that he had stated my position correctly, I hold that he was, in honor and Christian duty, bound to accept that denial as final, and to correct his statement. This would have been the end of the matter. But instead of this, he still asserts, as if my denial were a thing to be taken no notice of, that he had published my "calm and cool position." In this Brother Lamar may feel that he has done right. I do not.

That any intelligent Christian man, who makes the New Testament the criterion of his conduct, who loves the peace of Christ's churches, and who respects the feelings of his children, should be found to array himself on the side of so mischievous an innovation as that of organs in the house of God, is to me a matter of absolute astonishment. I do not fear to hazard the assertion that the organ question has done more harm, has produced more alienation, has cooled more feelings, and led to more distrust than any other two or three of the angry questions which, from time to time, have blazed up among us as a people. Not one vestige of good has ever resulted from it; while it has been both the cause and the occasion of wide-spread and deep-rooted evil. Indeed, I think it not at all improbable that it has done us more harm as a people than all the other questions combined that have ever agitated us. Were the question wholly banished from our ranks today, ten years would not serve to heal the wounds in churches and individuals it has produced. Yet Brother Lamar stands on the side of the organ. Stand there, my brother. Write on in ribaldry and burlesque of brethren who oppose the organ. Write on. The end is not yet. Coming events in even Louisville may already have their shadows in St. Louis and other like places. Write on.

— Moses E. Lard