Instrumental Music in The
In this writing we will make an appeal to secular history by
seeing what people in the past have to say about instrumental music in the
Church. In a statement made by Augustine, a theologian and
historian (354 to 430 AD), he said that singing in his day was more like
speaking than singing. Another figure, Jerome (340 AD), said that musical
instruments were "...very much in use by various cults, in the theatre, the
circus, and pagan worship...and young maidens ought not even to know what a lyre
or a flute is, or what it is used for". Clement of Alexandria said,
"Only one instrument do we use, that is the work of peace wherewith we honor
God; no longer the old psaltery, trumpet, drum and flute". Crysostem had
this to say: "David formerly sang psalms, also today we sing with him.
He had a lyre with lifeless strings. The Church has a lyre with
living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre, with a different
tone indeed, but with a more accordant piety".
History will prove that a cappella
congregational singing was the norm in the Church, however, we see the
beginnings of the modern church choir in the Council of Laodecia:
"...others shall not sing in the Church..." This we see today among many
It might be appropriate at this point to come to more recent
history and quote from a Baptist historian, David Benedict in his book, Fifty
Years Among the Baptists. He had this to say about the introduction of the
organ among the Baptists: "This instrument which from time immemorial has
been associated with cathedral pomp and prelatical power and has always been the
peculiar favorite of great national churches, at length found its way into
Baptist sanctuaries, and the first one ever employed by the denomination in this
country and probably in any other,. might have been seen standing in the singing
gallery of the Old Baptist meeting house in Pawtucket about forty years ago
where I then officiated as pastor, and in the process of time this resort in
church music was adopted by many of our societies which had formerly been
distinguished for the primitive and conventional plainness".
We need to take a little more time for this quote: "The
changes which have been experienced in the feelings of a large portion of our
people have often surprised me. Staunch Old Baptists in former times would
as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their
He also said on page 282, regarding the removal of a cappella
congregational singing that "the prejudices by degrees began to subside against
this new movement, and the people became more and more interested in the
performance of their singing choirs, and as their congregations were augmented
by the new attraction in their religious worship". The writer goes on to
say, "...we may reasonably expect that the organ will be viewed with favor by
spiritual worshipers, but whenever it shall assume an overwhelming influence and
only a few artistic performers be retained, and
the singers cease, to be directed by men who take little interest in any other
services of the sanctuary except which pertains to their professional duty, then
a machine, harmless in itself, will be looked upon with disfavor, if not with
disgust, by the more pious portion of our assemblies".
Here we see by this noted historian that this instrument was
totally new in the Baptist family and was causing many problems. This book
was published in 1848 and spanned backward fifty years. We also find the
writer saying that if the present trend continued he would expect that
professional men would be "employed" to lead the singing in the Baptist Church.
How true this prediction was in many places.
The Old-line Baptists, described in this book, have spurned
instrumental music in the Church for good reason. History tells us, as
well as the Scriptures, that it is an invention of man; it is not enjoined upon
the Church by her Founder to employ such things.
Another eminent historian, an able
Baptist minister, John Gill, said in his Body of Divinity, pages 962 and
portions of 963: "...it is observed, that David's psalms were sung
formerly with musical instruments, as the harp, timbrel and cymbal, and organs;
and why not with these now? If they are to be disused, why not singing
itself? I answer, these are not essential to singing, and so may be laid
aside... it was usual to burn incense at the time of prayer, typical of Christ's
mediation, and of the acceptance of prayer through it; that is now disused; but
prayer being a moral duty, still remains; the above instruments were used only
when the Church was in its infant state, and what is showy, gaudy, and pompous,
are pleasing to children; and as an ancient writer observes, '...these were fit
for babes, but in the churches (under the gospel dispensation, which is more
manly) the use of these, fit for babes is taken away, and bare or plain singing
is left '. As for organs, of which mention is made in Psalm 150, the word
there used signifies another kind of instrument than those not in use, which are
of later device and use; and were first introduced by a Pope of Rome, Vitalianus,
and that in the seventh century, and not before".
Next, consider an appeal to reason. We read that our
blessed Lord and His disciples "...when they had sung an hymn, they went out..."
(Mark 14-26). This is the Head of the Church singing hymns. Is it
reasonable that they had musical instruments on that night? In a statement
made by Tertullian in the beginning of the Third Century, also recorded in John
Gill's history, page 960, Tertullian speaks of reading the Scriptures,
singing psalms, preaching and prayer as public worship. Does it not stand
to reason that if they had musical instruments it would have been mentioned?
Paul and Silas in prison prayed and sang praises together; they
surely had no musical instruments.
We read an abundance of history of the Waldenses crossing the
mountains and hiding in the valleys of Piedmont, preaching, praying, singing.
Did they have cumbersome musical instruments as they were hiding in the caves
from their persecutors?
Consider the song "How Firm a Foundation, ye saints of the
Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word". This hymn is dear to
our hearts because we associate peace and security in the Lord with those words.
When we hear this played on the organ the reason it is so beautiful is because
we associate the melody with the words, but if we were not familiar with the
song's words and heard the instrument playing, we would have no idea with what
or with Whom to associate the music.
We are not condemning musical instruments in social settings;
the mastery of playing them is a wonderful art and one about which
we marvel, and we have great appreciation for this ability. We are simply
stating they have no place in the worship of God as prescribed in the New
Testament. Quoting from The Primitive Baptist Church at Cozad, Nebraska,
written by Elder W. S. Craig about 1931, on page 59 he states, "Primitive
Baptists are quite generally lovers of instrumental music in their homes, but
they do not believe that such should be used in their churches, as part of their
worship...They do not want any confusing noise to drown their voices and make
unintelligible their words, for they want to sing with the spirit and the
understanding (1 Corinthians. 14:15), and spiritual songs make melody in their
hearts to the Lord (Ephesians. 5:15)".
He continues, quoting Henderson-Buck: "that instrumental
music was not practiced by the primitive Christians, but was the innovation of
later times, is evident from church history". And, from Hawker, 4-639-40,
"I am well aware that some commentators have conceived that they find authority
for their use, in what is said of the harps used in heaven in Revelation 14:2.
But this, in my view, is advancing nothing; they might have as well contended
that what is said of the streets of heaven being paved with gold, literally
means so (Revelation 21:21). If musical instruments were used in
the temple service, we may humbly observe, that they were suited to a
dispensation of types and shadows only; similar to what the apostle saith of
other figurative services in the Church (Hebrews 9:10)
According to my apprehension, under a
gospel dispensation, and in a gospel Church, the only stringed instruments to be
used, are the strings of the heart". An appeal to the Scriptures
reveals that from Matthew 1 through Revelation 22, there is not one reference to
the use of instrumental music in the New Testament Church. Now, in an
appeal to the reader, a very serious question. Do you seek to worship God
in Spirit and in truth, and will you accept in your worship service that for
which we have no injunction from the God in Heaven to employ, or will you accept
what man and his tradition have imposed upon many of the children of God?
Prayerful study will convince anyone seeking to know the truth that the New
Testament mode of worship has no place for
instrumental music. Those who are convinced of this truth already will do
well to continue in "...the old paths, where is the good way, and walk
therein..." (Jeremiah 6:16).
D. H. Goble in his "Primitive Baptist Hymn Book" said in the preface, "We
are fully persuaded that we had as well preach unsound doctrine as to sing it
with an attempt at devotion".
"Awake, my soul, in joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer's
praise; He justly claims a song for me, His loving-kindness, O how free!"