THE GOSPEL OBSERVER
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”
March 28, 1990
The Music of the Church
by Tom Edwards
“Music” is a general term that does not specify a particular mode. One can make music with or without instruments. The New Testament, however, does not use the expression “to make music”; but rather it commands the Christian “to sing” — an instruction just as exclusive as God’s specific command for Noah to use gopher wood in the building of the ark, thus prohibiting the use of any other type.
Not too long ago I had an interesting conversation with a man whom I met at a nearby laundry mat. I had soon learned that he was a college music teacher and enjoyed teaching especially on the subject of early “church music.” Though his father had been a Baptist preacher, and he himself had loved to play the trumpet; he acknowledged that in the early church a cappella music (music without instrumental accompaniment) was the only kind used.
It’s interesting to note that it is not just those in the church of Christ who have realized that God does not authorize the use of instrumental music for worship in the church. Various prominent men, representing a wide array of denominational backgrounds, have also stood opposed to its use in worship during New Testament times. Let us consider a few short statements from some of these men — not as a basis for our authority; but to see that there are various others than just those in the church of Christ who have found “a cappella” music to be the only kind which God authorizes for worshiping in spirit and in truth during this gospel age.
John Calvin: “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.”
Charles Spurgeon (Baptist): “What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it.”
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religions: “In the Greek church the organ never came into use, but after the eighth century it became common in the Latin church, not however, without opposition from the side of the Monks — the reformed church discarded; and though the church of Basil very early introduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly and after long hesitation.”
American Encyclopedia: “Pope Vitalian is related to have introduced organs into some of the churches of Southern Europe about A.D. 670, but the only trustworthy account is that of one sent as a present by the Greek emperor, Constantine Copronymus, to Pepin, king of the Franks in 775.”
Adam Clarke (Methodist): “I am an old man and a minister; and I declare that I never knew them (mechanical instruments) productive of any good in the worship of God; and I have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire; but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music and I here register my protest against all such corruption in the worship of the Infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Andrew Fuller (one of the most respected Bible commentators in the Baptist church): “The N.T. speaks of praising God by singing, but further it says not…Paul speaks more than once in his epistles to the Corinthians of instruments of music, but not as being used in religion. He described them as necessary to war, but not to worship; and speaks of them in a language of degradation, as `things without life, giving sound….’ The history of the church during the first three centuries affords many instances of primitive Christians engaging in singing; but no mention, that I recollect, is made of instruments. Even in times of Constantine, when everything grand and magnificent was introduced into Christian worship, I find no mention made of instrumental music. If my memory does not deceive me, it originated in the dark ages of popery, where almost every other superstitions are more prevalent, and where the last regard is paid to primitive simplicity.”
Wm. B. Posey, The Baptist Church in the Lower Mississippi Valley: “For years the Baptists fought the introduction of instrumental music into the churches … Installation of the organ brought serious difficulties in many churches.”
W. K. Killen: “In the early church, the whole congregation joined in the singing, but instrumental music did not accompany the praise.”
E. S. Lorenze, Church Music: “…the music was purely vocal. There were no instrumental accompaniment of any kind.”
A Cappella Music, p. 83: “‘A cappella’ comes from the Latin by way of Italian and means `in the style of the church,’ `as is done in the church.’ The classical form of church music is unaccompanied song.”
The following passages show the type of music which God specified for worship during the gospel dispensation — a cappella:
Matt. 26:30 — “singing a hymn”
Acts 16:25 — “singing hymns”
Rom. 15:9 — “sing to Thy name”
1 Cor. 14:15 — “I will sing”
Eph. 5:19 — “singing and making melody with your heart”
Col. 3:16 — “teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Heb. 2:12 — “I will sing Thy praises.”
Heb. 13:15 — “fruit of lips”
James 5:13 — “sing praises”
May we each desire to worship and serve God in the way in which His word authorizes, for only in this way is true love and reverence manifested.
Tags: a cappella Adam Clarke Andrew Fuller Authority Baptist Catholic Charles Spurgeon Church Church History Christian Church of Christ “Firsts” Instrumental Music John Calvin John Girardeau John Wesley Lutheran Martin Luther Methodist Music Presbyterian Sing Thomas Aquinas William B. Posey Worship