Instrumental Music in Worship (Pt. 2)
“I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14:15, NASB). In the last article we dealt with the question, “Did God authorize the use of mechanical instruments in worship?” We concluded that God does not permit the use of machinery under new convent worship. In this article, we will briefly look at the history of instrumental music and quotes from various prominent religious figures.
The History of Instrumental Music
If one were to do a thorough investigation about instrumental music in new testament worship, they will soon discover that the early Christians sang during worship without the accompaniment of mechanical objects. In the 7th century, Pope Vitalian wanted to improve the singing of the congregation; therefore, he added the organ into their services. According to Chambers Encyclopedia, the organ was first introduced into church worship by the pope in 666 AD (Chambers’ Encyclopedia, Vol 7, p. 112).
Protestant denominations incorporated them into their services in the 18th century (The New Shaff-Herzogg Encyclopedia, 1953, Vol 10, p. 257). Interestingly enough, Protestant figures before the 1700s adamantly opposed instruments of any kind. John Spencer Curwen, a member of the Royal Academy of Music, wrote in 1880,
Men still living can remember the time when organs were very seldom found out of the Church of England. The Methodist, Independents, and Baptists rarely had them, and by the Presbyterians they were stoutly opposed (Studies in Worship Music, 179).
Let us see what these religious figures had to say in the statements below:
· Tertullian (155 – 230 AD) “What trumpet of God is now heard – unless it is in the entertainment of the heretics?”
· Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD) “For this even now we sang, this expressing with one mouth, we instructed your hearts. Hath not the institution of these Vigils in the name of Christ brought it to pass that harps should be banished out this place? And lo, the same are bid to sound, ‘Praise the Lord,’ saith he, ‘with harp; sing unto him with the psaltery of ten strings.’ Let none turn his heart to instruments of the theater” (Augustine, Exposition on the Book of Psalms (Psalm 1 – 36), p. 311).
· John Calvin (1509 – 1564) “Musical instruments were among the legal ceremonies which Christ at His coming abolished” (John Calvin, Lecture on Exodus 15:20).
· Geneva Bible (1599) “Exhorting the people only to rejoice in praising God, he maketh mention of those instruments which by God’s commandment were appointed in the old Law, but under Christ the use thereof is abolished” (Geneva Bible (1599) note on Psalm 150:3).
· J. W. McGarvey (1829 – 1911) “We cannot, therefore, by any possibility, know that a certain element of worship is acceptable to God in the Christian dispensation, when the Scriptures which speak of that dispensation are silent in reference to it. To introduce any such element is unscriptural and presumptuous. It is will worship” (J.W. McGarvey, The Millennial Harbinger, 1864, pp. 511 – 512).
· Theodore Finney (1827-1899) “The early Christians refused to have anything to do with the instrumental music which they might have inherited from the ancient world” (Theodore Finney, A History of Music, 1947, p. 43).
· W. D. Killen (1806-1902) “It is not, therefore, strange that instrumental music was not heard in their congregational services…. In the early church the whole congregation joined in the singing, but instrumental music did not accompany the praise” (W. D. Killen, The Ancient Church, pp. 193, 423).
After examining historical sources, we can see that instrumental music is a recent implementation and was opposed even by major denominational leaders until the 18th century. This shows that mechanical music in the assembly was man’s idea, not God’s. Worship is for God, not man (John 4:23-24). If we were to look at the scriptures in the New Testament with an honest heart, we will soon learn that there is no record of instruments being used under the new convent.