Organs in Church
The Gospel Messenger--October 1901
DEAR BROTHER HASSELL:
The Campbellites in Indiana are considerably divided concerning instrumental music in church, and there has been a number of lawsuits over the property in different places.
The Old Testament speaks of music in the service of God, but the New Testament is silent in regard to it. The true position concerning the matter is to regard the silence of the New Testament as prohibitory, and not permissive. If we bring the organ into the church on the ground that the New Testament does not forbid it, we may also bring the horn, brass-hand, fiddle, fife and drum, because these things are not specifically forbidden in the New Testament. If we interpret the silence of the New Testament as permissive in these things, then we have no ground of union concerning what we shall offer to God as service, as each one may bring in whatever his fancy might select, provided it is not specifically forbidden. It is right to compare the Old and New Testaments and see what forms of service found in the Old was perpetuated in the New, and we have the host of reasons for still perpetuating it; but if we assume to determine what Old Testament service shall be maintained now, we would plunge into confusion among ourselves. We have the same authority for the dance that we have for the organ, and many things practiced in the Old that are not named in the New. So the only basis of union among ourselves in this matter is to compare the Old and New Testaments together, and practice no more of the Old Testament service than we find authorized or exampled in the New.
If we allow one brother to add the instruments of music to the list, we must allow another to add something else to the list, and so the basis of union would be swept away at once. The theory of our people has been to interpret the silence of the New Testament as prohibitory and not as permissive. This is a safe old beaten path for the dear Old Baptists. Let us all be content to follow in the paths of our fathers.
I believe, as you seem to think, that there was more devotion to God by our fathers than is among us. I learn that the Mission Baptists in Canada are dividing over the organ question. I saw a little book written by a Mission Baptist in Canada against organs in church. An eminent Campbellite in our town has written a book against the use of the organ in church. It is a well written book, neatly bound in cloth; price, 25 cents. I will fill orders for it. It seems that the practice of using organs in church is proving a curse to the popular churches; so we may be glad that our dear people have been content to be governed by the New Testament in their worship.
Elder Hassell, tell us who first introduced the organ into the worship of God, and when? May the Lord grant that our dear people may ever adhere to the principle that the silence of the New Testament should be interpreted as prohibitive and not as permissive.
J. H. OLIPHANT.
Crawfordsville, Ind, August 8,1901.
Reply—In the King James Version of the Bible, the word “organ” occurs four times—Gen. iv. 21; Job xxi. 12; xxx. 31; and Psalm ci. 4. The original Hebrew word does not mean what is now called an organ, but it means a pipe or flute blown by the breath of the performer. The instrument now called an organ was invented by the Greeks of Alexandria in Egypt in the second century before Christ. It is said that it was first used in the Catholic churches of Africa in the fifth century after Christ, and that its use spread from Africa into the Catholic churches of Spain in the same century; but the common and more authentic statement is that the Roman Catholic Pope Vitalian introduced the organ into the Roman Catholic churches of Western Europe in A. D. 666. It is said that the Roman Catholics themselves became so disgusted with the use of the organ in their churches that, but for the influence of the German Emperor Ferdinand I, it would have been abolished by the Council of Trent (in Tyrol, Austria), which held its sessions from A. D. l547 to 1563. The Protestants derived their use of organs in churches, not from the Old Testament (whose writers never heard of the modern organ), but from the Roman Catholics; and the Baptists got their use of organs in churches from the Protestants. Primitive Baptists should, as the Apostle Paul exhorts the churches at Ephesus and Colosse, “sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with grace in their hearts,” “with the spirit and the understanding,” “making melody in their hearts to the Lord” (Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16; 1 Cor. xiv. 15).