REV. ROBERT JOHNSON, A.M.,
PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, KOSSUTH, IOWA.
"Come before his presence with singing."—Ps. 100:2.
OSBORN, SNOW & CO., STEAM PRINTERS AND BINDERS, VALLEY STREET.
The subject of instrumental music in the worship of God is now being keenly discussed by members of Evangelical churches in this village and neighborhood.
I was respectfully requested by various parties, to express my opinion upon it in a public discourse on a week day. This endeavored to do on the twenty-fourth of February, last, in my own Church, without the remotest view to publication. A request, however, was made for this by many who were present at the time. At first, I declined to entertain the idea, but upon more urgent solicitation, I was constrained to comply, in the hope that it might do some good to persons who have not extensive means of information, and who may be still in doubt.
I am not so vain as to expect that the expression of my opinion will have much weight in making a change upon prejudiced minds, and hence I have given lengthy extracts on the subject from ministers of eminence, some of whom occupy a high position in the Church at the present time. I have derived assistance from various authors in the course of my reading, but am particularly indebted to "Brown’s Discourses, and the Home and Foreign Record of the Canada Presbyterian Church." The method that was laid down in the discussion has been strictly adhered to, but some of the illustrations are more fully stated than they were at the time of delivery.
That it may be blessed to those who read it, as well as those who heard it for edification, preventing farther innovations in the worship of God, and for thus advancing His declarative glory, is our earnest prayer.
KOSSUTH, March, 1871.
NOTE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The first edition has sold beyond expectation—and the demand still continuing, a second one is issued. Typographical errors are corrected; and while the matter is substantially the same, some new arguments are produced, and others are more pointedly set forth. There is a difference in the number of the pages on account of the closeness of the print and the size of the type.
KOSSUTH, July, 1871.
IN PUBLIC WORSHIP.
"I will praise the name of GOD with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving." PSALM. 69:30.
This Psalm, as we may learn from New Testament citations, is of a prophetic character. It refers to the times of the Gospel, and brings before us the blessed Saviour, in his obedience, sufferings, and death, for our salvation. In the preceding part of it, we have the sorrows of this holy sufferer depicted when about to be offered as a sacrifice. "I am poor and sorrowful."
Able to see the end from the beginning, however, he does not leave the contemplative mind to dwell altogether on the gloom and desolation of Calvary, he sees that exchanged for the joyous scenes of the resurrection and ascension. The conflict of the cross was unutterably severe, but the triumph and exaltation which speedily followed, were glorious in proportion. The scene thus changes from sorrow to joy; and the blessed Redeemer, having risen from the dead, declares, in the language of the text, His intention of praising and magnifying the Father, for the great deliverance which he brought about by his sufferings, which had now forever come to an end.
He shows in the text the duty of praising GOD, and he says he will do it—referring to what the church on earth—the members of His mystical body—will continue to do in the matter of praise—on account of His atoning work being finished, and their interest in it secured.
Singing the praises of the LORD is a moral duty enjoined both by the example of Christ and his Apostles, and by the precepts of Sacred Writ. Praise to the LORD is both comely and pleasant, and our hearts ought to gush forth in gratitude to GOD for all His gracious benefits.
It is in the Church of GOD that we expect this noble and delightful exercise to be performed with spirit and power; and it is strange that there should be any difference of opinion respecting the manner of the performance of this commanded duty—whether it should be done solely by the human voice under this dispensation, or by the accompaniment of musical instruments, as it was for some time under the law.
It is of great importance that you should bear in mind GOD, is an infinitely Holy One, and requires, in His bringing sinners into conformity to the Divine will, a careful attendance upon His own appointed ordinances. He has always been very particular about His own Church, as you discover in reading the beginning of the Bible. There you will find that the great work of creation is dismissed by a short account of it, while we have not only chapters, but whole books employed to describe GOD’s holy ordinances for the salvation of the soul.
The wonderful minuteness recorded about the erection of the tabernacle, the construction of its furniture, the order of its holy services—things which were only shadowy, and soon to pass away, must have been intended to show unto us their important and symbolical nature, as well as the zeal which GOD always manifests for His own worship. The manner of approaching near unto Him in any part of His own appointed ordinances is of the utmost importance, if we expect to receive the blessings of Heaven. It is on this account that we should be scripturally exact in both the matter and manner of our praise in the Sanctuary. It is with the latter that we have to do on the present occasion, and therefore we propose to discuss the subject of the use of instruments of music in the worship of GOD according to the following method:
Direct your attention to sacred places, and official characters under the law, that you may see what is said about instrumental music in public worship, and what it is contrary to—
Attempt to show you the position of instruments of music in the days of David, Solomon, Hezekiah and other kings of Judah; and also the meaning to be attached to them in this dispensation.
Attempt to refute several plausibilities urged for their use.
In the further investigation of the subject, according to this plan, we proceed to observe, regarding the use of instrumental music, that—
1. It is contrary to the stated, ordinary and public worship of GOD, in the tabernacle, in the temple (except on extraordinary occasions), and in the synagogues of the Jews.
In illustrating this subject your attention must be directed to sacred places, and also to official characters employed about these, under the former dispensation.
l. The tabernacle was a magnificent and divine pavilion, which Moses built according to the express command of God. It was partly to be the place of Jehovah’s visible residence (as far as any place on earth could be) asking of Israel, and partly to be the center and medium of that solemn worship, which the people were to render to him.
It is of importance yon should remember that the pattern of the tabernacle, with all its furniture necessary for the worship of God, was not left to the invention of Moses, nor the fancy of the workmen employed in building it, nor the humor or taste of the people. The will of the Divine One must be religiously observed in every particular. Read Exodus, 25th chapter, 40th verse: "And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." The ark with the mercy-seat, the altar of burnt offering, and the altar of incense, the holy garments for the priests, urim and thummim, the table for the shew-bread, and the candlestick of beaten gold, with his shaft, his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, the ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, with the loops, the couplings and the taches—the dishes, the spoons, the covers, the tongs and the "snuff-dishes." All these were of Divine appointment, and to be made according to the pattern that the Most High showed to his servant, Moses.
But in all this catalogue you will carefully observe there is not one word uttered about musical instruments of any kind, neither harps, nor timbrels, nor organs, nor stringed instruments.
Now, God says to Moses, in Deuteronomy the 4th chapter and 2d verse: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD, your GOD, which I command you."
I request you then to fix it in your mind, that instrumental music formed no part of public worship in the services of the tabernacle. The reason is obvious: Moses made no musical instruments by Divine appointment, and he was strictly forbidden to add anything to what was commanded by the Most High.
This Divine pavilion was set up in the wilderness of Sinai, and the Israelites carried it from place to place in their journeying to the promised land. When they arrived in Canaan it was first set up at Gilgal and continued there for about seven years. Afterwards it was located in Shiloh and there it was found in the days of Eli. Israel went to war with the Philistines, and the latter prevailing, the ark of GOD was superstitiously taken to the camp by the ungodly sons of the high priest. From thence it was carried to Ashdod and placed in the temple of Dagon, the idol-god of the Philistines. From this period you will observe that the tabernacle never received this precious piece of furniture again. The two were forever separated. You would like, no doubt, to trace the movements of the ark a little further, and in doing so you observe that the LORD smote the men of Ashdod, on its account, with a terrible disease, and they had the ark removed to Gath, thence to Ekron, and afterwards the men of Bethshemesh of the tribe of Judah received it. They had a sinful curiosity to look into it and many of them were cut off. At their suggestion it was removed by the men of Kirjath Jearim, and with them it remained twenty years.
King David brought it from this place and left it at the house of Obed-Edom for three months, after which it was carried, with great solemnity, into the place prepared for it, in Jerusalem, called the city of David. It remained there till the Temple was built by Solomon, and it was placed in it. From this it had been removed somehow for a time; for we find, in second Chronicles, thirty-fifth chapter, and third verse, that the Godly young King, Josiah, ordered it to be replaced. Afterwards, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, it was forever lost.
In regard to the Tabernacle and its other sacred furniture, we learn that when the ark was placed in the Temple of Dagon, this grand pavilion had been removed from Shiloh to Nob, near Jerusalem, where Ahimelech and his son Abiathar were, successively, high priests. In the reign of David it was at Gibeon in the tribe of Benjamin, and there it was found in the commencement of Solomon’s reign, and from this period the sacred oracles give us no more information about it.
2. Another sacred and magnificent place was the Temple of Solomon, called by the Redeemer, "My Father’s house." It was erected nearly on the same plan, but in a larger and more costly manner, than the Tabernacle. In speaking of the Temple we refer to the first one erected, and then after being destroyed, rebuilt. The plan and model of it were framed under that of the Tabernacle, but the dimensions were much larger. The utensils or furniture for the worship of GOD were exactly the same, but enlarged perhaps in size to suit the building.
Seven years and six months were required for the time of erecting the first Temple. After it continued in its glory between thirty and forty years, Shishak, King of Egypt, took Jerusalem and removed its treasures, about one thousand years before CHRIST. Finally this Temple was burned by the Chaldeans about the year of the world 3416 and 584 before CHRIST.
It was rebuilt by Zerubabel, inferior to the first in grandeur of its structure and deficient in five remarkable things, making the first glorious. It had not the ark and mercy-seat, the shekinah or symbol of the Divine presence, the sacred fire on the altar first kindled from Heaven, the Urim and Thummim and the spirit of prophecy. To make up for the want of these things, it surpassed the first in glory in being honored by the presence of the blessed Redeemer. Through the righteous judgment of the Almighty as a punishment for the idolatrous propensities of the Jews, it was utterly destroyed by the Romans about the year of the world 4073.
The Temple service differed from that of the Tabernacle in David’s appointing the Levites, in the matter of song, to use musical instruments, and none but official characters, such as Levites and priests, were permitted to employ these in the service of GOD, and that upon extraordinary occasions, which shall be pointed out as we proceed.
3. Another place for the worship of GOD was the Synagogue. There is a difference of opinion as to the time of the organization of synagogues and also of their being of Divine institution. The latter we would suppose cannot be questioned, except by High Church dignitaries. In relation to the former we presume there is evidence enough to date their origin earlier than the Babylonish captivity. In Leviticus, the twenty-third chapter and third verse, it is said: "Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of rest an holy convocations; ye shall do no work therein, for it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings." To this passage Bishop Stillingfleet refers, as containing the Divine authority for the erection of Synagogues. All were required to keep the Sabbath as a day for holding a holy convocation, but how could this be done if there was no public worship elsewhere on the Sabbath by any of the Israelites except the small number who made their way to the Temple? It is unquestionable, that at an early period in the Jewish history, it was usual for the people to wait on the prophets on the Sabbath day. The Shunammite’s husband asked her, when she wished to run to the man of GOD, why she should do so, seeing it was neither new moon nor Sabbath. Second Kings, fourth chapter and twenty-third verse. In the Synod at Jerusalem, James declared: "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the Synagogues every Sabbath day." Acts of the Apostles, fifteenth chapter and twenty-first verse. And in the seventy-fourth Psalm and eighth verse, you find it recorded; "They have burnt up all the Synagogues of GOD in the land." This Psalm is declared to have been written of, or for Asaph, who lived in the days of David. Before that time there must have been Synagogues all over the land.
Examine the works of the eminent Puritan divine, Goodwin, and in his work on Jewish antiquities, entitled "Moses and Aaron," he declares his conviction that the Synagogues were early planted over all the land, and asserts the probability that they were of much earlier date than the captivity. They became very numerous, for it is said that there were about four hundred and eighty of them in Jerusalem before its destruction. It is hardly possible that when the LORD designed His people to be religious, intelligent and holy, and for this purpose gave them the Sabbath, he would confine so many thousands of worshipers to meet within the small enclosure of the Temple. Only one house of worship in all the land of Canaan! If one city, and that where the Temple was, required nearly five hundred of them, the whole country must have been dotted over with them to the amount of many thousands.
What then was the nature of the services rendered to GOD in these places of meeting? It consisted of prayer, reading and expounding the Scriptures (at least so much of them as then existed), and as the ordinance of singing GOD’s praise is a duty founded on the moral law, we may say without hesitation the singing of praise to His holy name.
We beg your attention to the fact that as sacrifices were not offered in these places of worship, but only at the Tabernacle and the Temple, and as instruments of music were not used except in connection with the offering up of sacrifices, it is evident that the praise of the Synagogue was offered up to GOD without such an accompaniment. Observe, then, how great must have been the number, in these days, who did not need nor employ the assistance of instruments of music in their approach into GOD’s presence, as worshipers in the Synagogue service. We copy after this mode of worship in the Christian Church, and consequently find nothing under this dispensation to warrant the use of instrumental music in sacred song. It must, therefore, be an innovation, a piece of service without any warrant from the Head of the Church, and justly may He say, who hath required these things at your hands? The objection brought against the early date of the Synagogues from the apparent silence of the Old Testament Scriptures respecting them, has not much weight when you consider that for a period of five hundred years in the history of Israel, the Sabbath itself is not once mentioned. Nor can the objection of there being no divine written law at such an early date in the towns and villages to put in them, militate against their existence. For you might just as well say that there were no churches in England before the days of Henry the VIIIth, for what use would there be for them, seeing they had (as we know) no Bibles to put in them. Such a line of argument is what logicians call a non sequitur.
Having spoken of sacred places, we come now to speak of sacred characters or ecclesiastical persons. When the Jewish government was established, GOD himself may be considered as King and Ruler in Israel, and the Temple was His house where sacrifices and prayers were offered up to Him. One tribe was especially devoted to the conducting of public worship in the Temple, viz.: the tribe of Levi. The family of Aaron had the honor of the priesthood conferred upon it, and the remainder of the tribe performed the inferior offices. From the three sons of Levi—Gershon, Kohath, and Merari—were descended the three orders of ecclesiastical officers employed in the service of the Temple. These were the High Priests, the Priests, and the Levites.
As it suits our argument best we shall speak first of the Levites. They were appointed to wait on the priests and render them assistance in the holy services of the Tabernacle and Temple. When the Israelites were journeying to the Promised Land in the time of Moses, their business was to take down the Tabernacle, carry it about when the camp was to be moved, and to have a special care of all the furniture of the Tabernacle, the instruments and sacred vessels, etc., and when the camp was to be pitched, to set it up again. You will observe, however, that when the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land the business of carrying the Tabernacle and its furniture ceased and other offices had to be assigned to them. They became numerous in the time of David and Solomon. They were to have no estate in land; probably David found it no easy matter to assign them situations where they could be actively employed, in accordance with their sacred character in earning a livelihood, and not be chargeable to the community.
They were employed principally, however, about the service of the Temple, and some of them also in the service of the State. In First Chronicles, chapter twenty, third and fourth verses, it is declared in regard to them, "twenty and four thousand were to set forward the work of the house of the LORD, and six thousand were officers and judges." In things pertaining to the Temple some of them had charge of the treasury, others were to prepare the shew-bread and unleavened cakes. There were four thousand for porters, and the same number to be employed in the matter of sacred song.
In the service of the Tabernacle, there were no musical instruments in use. But we are informed in Numbers, tenth chapter and tenth verse, that there were two silver trumpets made by Moses at the command of GOD. They were used for calling assemblies, ordering the march of camps, summoning to battle, announcing the approach, or commencement of seasons or festivals; and latterly they were used in the Temple to call the Levites to their desks for the music, and to sound at sacrifices during the intervals of music while the people worshiped in silence. The silver trumpet seems to have answered, in religious affairs among the Jews, the purpose of the bell among Christian nations. And it is stated: "Ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings."
Now you will observe that none were to blow but ecclesiastical officers—persons set apart for the service of GOD in His own sanctuary—and it was done by the special appointment of GOD. Moses had a "thus saith the LORD" for it.
In making his arrangements about the services of the Temple (though not built in his time), David was the first to introduce instruments of music in their performance.
The use of these was exclusively assigned to the Levites, and that at the particular period when the sacrifices were offered by the priests.
The time of their use is of great importance to our argument (the time of offering sacrifices, and only that time), and therefore we solicit your careful attention to it and the proof which we shall lay before you. Read in First Chronicles, twenty-third chapter and twenty-sixth verse: "And also unto the Levites they shall no more carry the Tabernacle nor any vessels of it for the service thereof." Twenty-eighth verse: "Because their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron, for the service of the house of the LORD in the courts and in the chambers and in the purifying of holy things and the works of the service of the house of GOD." Verse thirty: "And to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD, and likewise at even, and to offer all burnt sacrifices unto the LORD in the Sabbaths, and in the new moons, and on the set feasts, by number according to the order commanded unto them continually before the LORD."
To make it the more impressive, I solicit your attention to Second Chronicles, twenty-ninth chapter and twenty-fifth verse: "And he (Hezekiah) set the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David and of Gad, the King’s seer, and Nathan the prophet, for so was the command of the LORD by his prophets."
"And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt-offering upon the altar." "And when the burnt-offering began, the Song of the LORD began also with the trumpets and with the instruments ordained by David, King of Israel. "And all the congregations worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. And all this continued until the burnt-offering was finished"—and of course then it ceased.
That you may have line upon line to prove the use of instrumental music in the Temple, only in sacrificing to GOD, read along with us another portion in Second Chronicles, thirty-first chapter and second verse: "And Hezekiah appointed the courses of the priests and the Levites after their courses, every man according to his service, the priests and Levites for burnt-offerings and for peace offerings, and to minister, and to give thanks, and to praise in the gates of the tents of the LORD."
The next class of officers is the priests, superior to the Levites, and chosen exclusively of the family of Aaron. They attended at the altar, made ready the victims and offered up the sacrifices. They kept up a constant fire on the altar of burnt offerings, attended to the lamps of the golden candlesticks. In connection with the Levites, they prepared the loaves of shew-bread, changing them every Sabbath. They likewise offered on the golden altar. Morning and evening of every day, a priest brought into the sanctuary a censer of incense, filled with the smoking coals, kindled with fire from the altar of burnt-offerings, and set it upon the golden table. They had sacerdotal garments for their office, such as linen drawers, a linen coat or tunic down to the feet and fitting closely to the body, a girdle and a tiara (viz.) a turban made of' several rolls of linen folded round the head.
The highest of the ecclesiastical officers was the high priest. His position in sacred things was next to the monarch in civil. He was placed over all the other priests, and he only could enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple. He had the supreme government in sacred things, and his decision in these was a final settlement of all controversies that might arise.
For a long time the high priesthood was hereditary in the family of Aaron, who was first clothed with the sacred office. From him it descended to his eldest son, Eleazar, whence we have it handed down in unbroken succession to the time of Eli. He was a good man but not a good father, and for the wickedness of his sons it returned to the descendants of Ithamar, Aaron’s second son.
When Solomon was King, it again returned into the family of Eleazar, by Zadok, where it continued to the captivity. After the return, Joshua, the son of Josedech, of the family of Eleazar, held that office. But after him the succession passed into a private Levitical family.
At the time of our Saviour, near the end of the Jewish polity, we learn that the right of succession was totally neglected. This accounts for the apparent ignorance of Paul the Apostle, of the Gentiles, when before that functionary he says: "I wist not brethren, that he was the high priest."
The office of this functionary ceased; for having lost his saintly dignity and authority, few coveted it, and hence, like what the popedom will be—it ultimately became extinct.
Now I direct your attention to the fact that when the office of high priest ceased to exist in the church militant, so also did that of the ordinary priesthood, and along with these the employment of the Levites also. When the great atoning sacrifice of our Redeemer had been offered by his obedience, suffering and death on the cross, all the sacrifices under the law had their fulfillment—ceased to be offered up, "as by one offering he hath forever perfected them that are sanctified." The Jewish sacrifices being gone—done away forever—so also is the Levitical order—and if their order be gone, so is the use of musical instruments. And as you cannot bring back the offering of sacrifices without disrespect of the glorious Saviour, so neither can you bring back instrumental music, their characteristic accompaniment, without great disrespect to the example of the Saviour singing praise to GOD, in his incarnate state, with his disciples, just before he went to the cross. In his epistle to the Hebrews, the Apostle Paul says, in reference to the ceremonials of the former dispensation, and especially the Levitical order and their musical instruments in sacred song: "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish way." But still more decidedly in the seventh chapter and twelfth verse, he makes the matter as clear as a mathematical problem where he says: "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." "I speak as unto men, judge ye what I say."
2. It is contrary to the practice of CHRIST and his Apostles, who rendered a worship in spirit and truth, as opposed to the sacrificial and typical of the former dispensation.
In examining this subject, we bring before you the conduct of the blessed Redeemer in connection with his disciples. Turn to the Gospel of Matthew, twenty-sixth chapter and thirtieth verse, where it is said: "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives." It may be observed here, that our subject has not so much to do with the matter of song as the manner in which it was rendered. In relation to the former, I would observe here, what I am borne out in stating by almost every commentator, that the word hymn has no reference to any human composition, but to the division of the psalms then in use and referred to by the Apostle Paul under the heading of "Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs." The hymn that was sung on the occasion referred to here, is by most commentators and Hebrew scholars called the great hallel, and consists of the six psalms preceding the hundred and nineteenth. This hymn was sung by the Jews at their four great feasts, as we learn by the Jewish prayer-book, called the "Seder Tephilloth." This is in use at the present day by the Polish and German Jews, and from it we obtain satisfactory information as to the hymn which the blessed Saviour and his disciples did sing on that occasion.
Now, I ask you to consider, that if it was the will of the Most High that instruments of music should be used in the ordinary worship of GOD, would not the blessed Redeemer have strictly adhered to it? Was he not well acquainted with all the counsels of the Father? Did he himself not declare that one jot or tittle should in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled? Considering then that the glorious Saviour sang praises to GOD, and did this in psalms or hymns (the latter as explained), but on no occasion is represented as using instrumental music, in singing, how could he, if such had been used by the law or the prophets, so emphatically declare in Matthew, the fifteenth chapter and seventeenth verse? "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfill."
The very language of our text shows us that the singing of psalms without musical instruments, in the worship of GOD, was practiced by the Old Testament Saints. "I will praise the name of GOD with a Song!" And to show that the practice was founded on the moral law it is said: "This shall please the LORD better than an ox or a bullock that hath horns and hoofs." What do we generally understand by the name of GOD but himself, his perfectness and attributes, which are to be praised by all his creatures and especially his Saints. Sometimes it means the Messiah himself. He who sang the praises of the LORD at the Sacramental Supper to which we have just referred in connection with the disciples. And when it is said that this was done by a Song, it agrees with Hebrews, second chapter and twelfth verse. In that place the Apostle of the Gentiles is speaking of Christ, and says: "I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren; in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee." This is a quotation from the twenty-second Psalm, and to throw a little more light on the hymn which CHRIST and his disciples sung, we observe that the original there, in the last part of the verse is "I will hallel thee," and the Apostle (as he does in many other places besides this,) uses the Greek translation called the Septuagint, and then it reads, "I will hymn thee." From this it may be observed that some of the pieces in the Psalms receive the name of hymns, where the Greek translation, or as it is called, the Septuagint, is used instead of the original, many had this translation who perhaps never saw the original of the Old Testament, and even if they had, would have been unable to read it.
It is on this principle that Chrysostom, a Greek Father, to whom you will find reference in another place, calls David "Humnographos," that is, in Greek, "The hymn writer," and says in explaining the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, "that it was sung on LORD’s Days, according to a custom handed down from the fathers." In one place he distinguishes the hymns proper, from Psalms, though ascribing both to David, counting the hymns as one of the higher and more spiritual order.
Having made this digression we return to the verse quoted and observe that the words of it are those addressed by CHRIST, the Son, to his Father, whose name he professes to declare to his brethren, and he states that it shall be done in the midst of the church, that is in the stated and ordinary public worship of GOD. And let us insist upon you to observe how it shall be done. Shall it be with the grand and magnificent tone of the most splendid musical machinery that scientific skill has brought into existence? No! No: he adds: "I will hallel thee." (Hebrew.) "I will hymn thee." (Greek.) He did this at the institution of the supper. He does this still, and ever will continue to do it through the instrumentality of his people in the worship of the Sanctuary, and in that part of it where it is thus enjoined:
"All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the LORD with cheerful voice."
But observe further that the celebration of GOD’s praise in the singing of Psalms is not only enjoined under the Old Testament, but is confirmed under the New, and urged upon us not only by the example of CHRIST, but by the example and command of his Apostles. There is no allusion by Him or any of them to a piece of musical machinery as necessary either to do it for you as a substitute or aid you in your feeble attempt to perform the duty.
You will please turn with us to the instructions communicated in this subject by the Apostles of the Gentiles. They are recorded in his Epistle to the Ephesians in the fifth chapter and nineteenth verse, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the LORD." We learn here that singing is praising GOD with the voice and not with machinery however skillfully constructed, parrot-like to utter sounds if not words, and that this duty is properly performed when there is an agreement between the heart and the voice.
But what is it to sing and make melody in the heart? It is singing with the heart? doing it heartily to the LORD.
Do we find mention made of any accompaniment here, any thing to go along with the voice to keep up the music? Yes! there is something to go along with it, but it is not that which can be constructed by the most skilful organ builders, say, Hall & Lebagh. The production of their skill and hands may draw together and gratify a graceless crowd—the ignorant masses—but the Great World-Builder, the framer of the covenant of redemption and He alone, can construct this accompaniment—the heart in proper exercise. This is the only thing enjoined by GOD’s Holy Spirit that is to accompany the voice when employed in Sacred song. Man’s wisdom here is but foolishness in the sight of GOD. "Not by might nor by power," (the seductive power of sweet sounds,) "but by my spirit saith the LORD."
We have further Apostolical instruction on this head in the third chapter and sixteenth verse of Colossians: "Let the word of CHRIST dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the LORD."
We beg you to listen carefully while the Apostle points out to you the proper qualification to enable you to sing aright. Some of you perhaps, afraid to hear your own voice may think it is the organ—that is the necessary thing to enable you to sing aright—keep up the music—and keep you from trembling at the sound of your own voice. But the Apostle, whether a lover of music or not, had no such idea, his mind was not so easily carnalized by the music of sweet sounds.
It is the word of CHRIST dwelling richly in you that constitutes the necessary qualification for the performance of this important duty. The word of CHRIST here is the blessed Gospel of which CHRIST is the author, as GOD, the preacher, as man, and the subject, as GOD, Man, Mediator.
It is the word of the Blessed Redeemer concerning himself as our GOD, Redeemer, Saviour, Husband, Head and King. It is the word that throws light upon his person, offices, fullness, freeness, and fitness to be our glorious Deliverer. It is the word that brings us the account of reconciliation, peace and pardon by His blood, justification by His righteousness, and complete salvation through His obedience, sufferings and death.
Now, if there be a dwelling of this word necessary for the right performance of music in sacred song, how can it take up its abode in a piece of machinery however skillfully constructed? it is like the idols described in Sacred Writ that were only the workmanship of men’s hands. It sees not, hears not, handles not, nor walks, yet forsooth it is supposed to be necessary to give a tone and a dignity to man’s singing of praises to his Maker. How weak, foolish, and childish is man to imagine that in this dispensation he can add any thing to what GOD has prescribed in the administration of the ordinances of His own Sanctuary. Can He add any thing to their efficacy by employing the mechanical skill, it may be of an ungodly company, to build such a powerful musical machine, as shall make the very seats to quiver underneath the enchanted audience? Can the majesty of sweet sounds rule in those hearts to sanctify and save them when the Holy Spirit being grieved, has refused to take up his abode? Will the ingenuity and skill of man be able to accomplish what GOD in His righteous displeasure has left undone, as a punishment for the introduction of sinful innovations in his own heaven appointed ordinances? Is poor, weak, carnally minded man wiser than his Maker, to know what additions are necessary to make GOD’s own ordinances more effective in the salvation of sinners?
We direct your attention to the change from the one dispensation to the other, as of great importance to our argument.
The new or gospel dispensation sprang from the old or Jewish one as the scion from the trunk. "The old nourished the new," (says J. L. C., in the Evangelical Repository,) "as decay and death nourish life." But when the old had served its purpose, it vanished away. This explains the difficulty as to how the circumcision of the first christians was considered valid. At what particular date the Jewish dispensation ceased to be recognised as that of the church of GOD—lost its ecclesiastical authority—it might be difficult precisely to say. Both were preserved until the new order of things was established, and yet we hear not a word of instrumental music in it. This shows unquestionably that it was not a part of the ordinary and stated worship of the Old Dispensation, while on the other hand praise is mentioned to show that it was, and still continues to be so under the New. The Jewish Dispensation ceased to be recognized of GOD soon after the introduction of the Christian one; for GOD cast off the Jewish nation from being His people, when they had crucified His Son, and added to this the guilt of rejecting him.
But the first Christians were very slow to adopt the New Order—the Gospel Dispensation, and they cling with wonderful tenacity to the Old for some time. They endeavored to graft the new religion—if we may so call it—on the old, and thus sought to save both. They observed Jewish ceremonies, kept Jewish feasts, went up to the temple, worshipped there, and in some cases, received circumcision at the hands of the priests and considered it valid.
But in the midst of their strict regard and adherence to many of the Old Testament customs and ceremonies, there is no evidence whatever that they wished to retain sacrifices; for they knew that this would be disparaging to the perfect one that the blessed Redeemer had offered up. Nor did they wish to retain instrumental music that, on great occasions at least, accompanied sacrifices, for the author of the Acts of the Apostles, tells us very distinctly in regard to this part of their worship: "And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising GOD and having favor with all the people,"—chapter second and forty-sixth verse.
They continued daily in the temple, they praised GOD there, but seemed to be as ignorant of the use of instrumental music in the doing of it as if they never had heard of it on festive occasions. Their conduct in this part of their worship makes it clear to an unprejudiced mind, aye, as clear as the sun at noonday, that instrumental music was not employed in the ordinary and stated public worship of the temple; nor was it employed at any other time under this dispensation by the disciples of CHRIST and the primitive Christians.
Again; read in the Acts of the Apostles, sixteenth chapter and twenty-fifth verse: "And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto GOD," and they sung so loud that "the prisoners heard them." Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, fourteenth chapter and fifteenth verse, says: "I will sing with the Spirit and I will sing with the understanding also."
We have in connection with this, the command of the Apostle James, in the fifth chapter and thirteenth verse of his Epistle: "Is any merry? let him sing psalms."
From these portions of the Sacred Oracles you see that neither CHRIST, nor his Apostles made mention of instruments of music in public worship, nor did they use any. This proves beyond all doubt, that they are not divinely authorized in this dispensation, and that their use is now a human invention, upon which we have no right to ask the head of the Church to bestow his enriching blessing.
3. It is contrary to the practice of the primitive Christians and early fathers, as church history teaches.
In examining the evidence of the primitive Christians, it will be necessary, for the satisfaction of all parties, to refer to the fellow-laborers of the Apostles, known to church historians by the name of the Apostolic Fathers. They are five in number: Barnabas, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp.
They must have been well acquainted with the manner of worshiping GOD, by the professors of religion in their day, and it cannot be doubted that they were all in existence long before the Council of Nice, whilst some of them, with the greatest probability, may be referred to a point of time, within the first century after our LORD’s death, or even after his birth.
We shall not take up time to examine each of them, but observe that in the Epistle of Barnabas, written about the close of the first century, or certainly before the middle of the second, he says in relation to a Christian’s guidance in worship, and it is in reference to praise that he is speaking: "Thou shalt preserve what thou hast received, neither adding thereto, nor taking therefrom." Now the worshipers in those days had received from the Apostles the command to sing psalms: "Is any merry?" says James, "let him sing Psalms." "Singing and make melody in your heart to the LORD."
Clement had seen the Apostles and conversed with them, and had still the sound of their preaching in his ears and their tradition before his eyes, as Eusebius says. The Apostle Paul mentions him in the fourth chapter and fifth verse of his Epistle to the Philippians, and many of the Romanists claim him as the second bishop of Rome. Not a word have we from him respecting a departure from the example of CHRIST and His Apostles, in the manner of praising GOD, "Let us approach him in holiness of soul, lifting up holy and undefiled trends towards Him," says he.
Ignatius was valiant for the honor of GOD, and set the seal of his blood to the truth he proclaimed, about seventy years after the death of our LORD. A careful investigation of his literary remains brings to light no single trace of adding instrumental music to the matter of sacred song in the worship of the Church at Antioch, where he ministered for a length of time.
Next to him comes to our notice the venerable Polycarp, who suffered martyrdom at a very advanced age in Smyrna, about one hundred and thirty years after our LORD’s death. A little before his death he offered his Thanksgiving to GOD, for His mercy in redeeming him. "For this and for all I praise Thee; I glorify Thee through the Eternal High Priest JESUS CHRIST and LORD!" There is no trace of any deviation from the footsteps of the flock in the manner of praise with him.
These Fathers, living nearest to, and some of them in the time of the Apostles, often conversed with them, and leave us no room to think that in the slightest degree they deviated from the example of CHRIST and his Apostles, in the manner of presenting the offering of praise to GOD. They were the disciples or successors of the Apostles, and well acquainted with the doctrine, worship, and government of the Church; and used no instrumental music that we hear of in the praise of GOD.
Their example brings us past the middle of the second century, to the time of Justin Martyr, who was born in Palestine, of heathen parents, about the close of the first century. He examined the evidences of Christianity, and by GOD’s blessing was brought to embrace the precious truth. Here we begin to have more specific evidence, for in his Book of Questions and Answers, to Jews and Gentiles, we have a distinct reference to sacred song, where he gives this answer: "Plain singing is not childish, but only the singing with lifeless organs, with dancing and cymbals, etc. Whence (says he) the use of such instruments and other things fit for children is laid aside, and plain singing only retained." Now the evidence of such a man on the doctrine and manner of worship, must be received with great interest, he utterly rejects the idea of the addition of instrumental music in the worship of GOD. This good man sealed his testimony with his blood about A. D. 165.
Again we have the testimony of Cement of Alexandria, a celebrated Christian Philosopher, he flourished about A. D. 190. He declares that musical instruments in the worship of GOD are unfit for rational creatures. "Keeping the whole of our life as a feast, every where and in every part persuaded that GOD is present: we praise him as we till our lands; we sing psalms as we are sailing; the Christian is persuaded that GOD hears every thing, not the voice only but the thoughts."
Tertullian, a contemporary of Clement, states in his well known piece entitled, "De Corona," that while the people were assembling, they were in the practice of singing some verses out of the psalms or hymns of David.
The evidence of the third century gives no examples of instrumental music in the worship of GOD. Origin, the great scholar and commentator, lived and wrote in the second century and early part of the third, he says, "hymns or psalms are sung (not played on an organ) to GOD, and the only begotten."
The evidence of the fourth century gives no encouragement to the use of musical instruments in sacred song.
Augustine, born about A. D. 354, in his famous work "De Civitate Dei," bears testimony to the frequent use of what he calls "Davidic um psalterium," and after expressing a fear that he had too often enjoyed the singing simply is a gratification to his ears, and mentioning a like fear on the part of Athanasius, (who flourished about A. D. 350,) yet approves the practice, and his words deserve notice, as skewing the general usage at the time, in the service of GOD.
Basil, a Christian Father, born about the year A. D. 328, acquired the name of the Great, in contradistinction to the multitude of bishops and pastors of the same name who succeeded him. He is often appealed to tamer the title of the Great Teacher of the Truth. His declaration is "that he thought musical instruments unprofitable and hurtful in the service of sacred song." He calls them the inventions of Jubal, of the race of Cain. At page 955 of one of his works, he says: "In such vain acts as the playing on the harps or pipe, as soon as the action ceases, the work itself vanishes, so that really, according to the Apostle’s expression, the end of those things is destruction."
And again at page 951 he says: Laban was a lover of the harp and of music, with which he would have sent away Jacob—"if thou hadst told me, I would have sent thee away with mirth and with songs, with tabret and with harp. But the patriarch (says he) avoided that music as a thing that would hinder his regarding the work of the LORD, and his considering the works of His hands." This is a long extract, but coming from such a great Teacher of Truth, it strengthens the evidence of the early Fathers against the unscriptural innovation of instrumental music in the worship of GOD.
Before leaving this century, we refer you to the great ecclesiastical historian, Eusebius, born about A. D. 270 flourished in the end of the third and beginning of this century, he was bishop or pastor of Caesarea in Palestine. He was a man of brilliant talents and extensive scholarship, he had ample means of knowing the practice of the church in regard to sacred song. He refers to the celebrated correspondence between Pliny, the Roman Governor of Bithynia, and Trajan, the Emperor.
Trajan, though by nature lenient, was a firm upholder of the Roman government and Roman gods. He renewed the old laws against secret assemblies, and thus put into the hands of persecuting governors a weapon that they freely used against the christians. Hence, says Eusebius, multitudes were put to death for their faith. Pliny abhorred the bloody work to which he was called as governor, and sent a letter (still extant) to Trajan asking advice, he states in it what he knows from the confession of christians concerning their mode of social worship, he says "that they rose before light and sung by tunes a hymn or psalm to CHRIST as to GOD." The great historian goes on to say that in the year A. D. 265, Paul, a pastor of the church at Samasota, was condemned and excommunicated for his heresies, by an ecclesiastical council held at Antioch. Amongst the charges brought against him, it is said "he stopped the psalms that were sung in the honor of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. These testimonies go to show, beyond all doubt, that singing (not playing on an instrument) was a part of divine worship on the Sabbath day, when the congregation assembled in the House of GOD.
The evidence of the fifth century makes nothing more for the pro-organ men than any of the preceding ones already examined. Chrysostom, born at Antioch, about 354, calls David the hymn-writer, and states that psalms were sung on LORD’s days, according to a custom handed down from the Fathers. He expresses his dislike of organs in public worship, and says in expounding the hundred and forty-ninth psalm: "But now, instead of organs, Christians must use the body to praise GOD." Jerome flourished in this century, and in his remarks on Ephesians 5:19, he speaks of the matter of the song employed in divine worship, but makes no allusion to musical instruments as necessary to give it greater effect. "Ore tantum verba Dei resonemus." We sing only the word of GOD.
Isidore, of Pelusium, was another renowned man. He died about A. D. 450. He says that instrumental music was only allowed to the Jews by the Almighty in a way of condescension to their childishness. In book second and epistle 176, he says, "if GOD bore with bloody sacrifices because of men’s childishness at that time, why should you wonder he bore with the music of a harp and a psaltry?"
We have thus examined the leading writers and fathers of five centuries, and find not one solitary expression to encourage pro-organ men to introduce an innovation in the worship of GOD. It is then contrary to the general usage of the people of GOD, for hundreds of year a after the incarnation of the Blessed Redeemer, and must under this dispensation, be altogether unscriptural, and consequently unwarranted.
I take an extract from the "Apostolic Constitutions." Dr. Murdock says in a note in Mosheim’s Church History, "they are of considerable use in determining various points of practice in the church during the third, fourth and fifth centuries. And Rev. Professor Eadie, of Scotland, says they are supposed to have been compiled in the Eastern or Greek Church, in the latter part of the third or the beginning of the fourth century. And as describing the discipline and practice of the church in the East, they are of some value. In book eighth and chapter 32, it is said, "if any come to the mystery of godliness, being a player on a pipe, a lute, or a harp, let him leave it off or be rejected."
The Homilies of the Church of England, too, condemn the practice of instruments in the worship of the sanctuary, at an early period, for it is said in one of them: "Alas! gossip, what shall we now do at church, since all the saints are taken away? since all the goodly sights we were wont to have are gone? since we cannot hear the like playing upon the organs as we could before? But, dearly beloved, we ought greatly to rejoice and give thanks that our churches are delivered from all these things which displeased GOD so sore, and filthily defiled His holy house, and His place of prayer."
In connection with this I may add (though I am anticipating my subject,) that many of the ministers of the Church of England, in the first convention of Queen Elizabeth, in 1562, earnestly labored to have organs and that pompous way of singing laid aside, and failed to carry it only by one vote.
But to return to the sixth and seventh centuries; it may be observed that there is little said on the subject of instrumental music, by the writers in those periods. Corruption in the worship of GOD was beginning to set in, and the number of faithful protesting witnesses was gradually decreasing. An unscriptural innovation in divine ordinances had no very strong nor lengthened opposition to contend with. Yet still it came only by degrees. Neander is about the best ecclesiastical authority on this subject, and he says it was not until the eighth century that the idea was entertained to any great extent.
Whence then originated the practice of having organs in the worship of GOD, under the gospel dispensation? It’s origin does the advocates of instrumental music in sacred song very little credit; for Decormenin in his lives of the Popes, (himself a Romanist,) says, "in the year A. D. 600, Pope Vitalian introduced into the churches the use of organs to augment the eclat of religious ceremonies."
Cardinal Bellarmin, born in 1542, corroborates the statement. He says the second ceremony are the musical instruments that began to be used at the above date. Rev. Dr. Vinton, of Trinity Church, New York, testifies to the same thing, in his lecture on music in the Musical Pioneer; and further states that in the dark times of the middle ages, the monks and friars gave great attention to the art of organ building. Let the advocates of the organ, then, give this statement due consideration; for when the gospel was first corrupted, and then lost amidst the dark days of Romish apostacy, the poor blinded monks and friars must have a substitute, and they gave great attention to the art of organ building, instead of the preaching of the gospel, the cultivation of personal holiness, and the practical exhibition of it amongst their hearers. Their piety was gone, if they ever had any, and their hearts were unaffected and unchanged. The itching ears of the people, the ignorant masses, however, must be tickled, and hence organs were built and used. But listen to the terrible denunciations of heaven against all such innovations and corrupting unscriptural practices: "Woe to them that chant to the sound of the viol and invent to themselves instruments of music like David."—Amos sixth chapter and fifth verse.
4. It is contrary to the opinion of the early school-men, and also to the practice of our reforming forefathers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The testimony of Thomas Aquinas, born in 1224, and highly esteemed in the Latin Church, is decidedly opposed to instrumental music in the worship of GOD. "In the old law," (he says) "GOD was pleased both with musical instruments and human voices. But the church does not use musical instruments to praise GOD, lest she should seem to judaize." "Pipes are not to be used, for teaching nor any artificial instruments as the harp or the like, but whatsoever will make the bearers good men."
Erasmus, born in 1467, though he still continued in the bosom of the Latin Church, says: "Men run to church as to a theatre, to have their ears tickled, and organ makers are hired with great salaries. What must they think of CHRIST who can believe him to be delighted with such men’s voices?"
Luther, born in 1483, according to the confession of Eckard, reckoned organs in the public worship of GOD, amongst the ensigns of Baal. The same author says, "they are laid aside in most of the Reformed Churches, nor would they be retained amongst the Lutherans, unless they had forsaken their own Luther."
The testimony of Polydore Virgil, who died in 1555, is opposed to instrumental music in GOD’s service, he was a man of mark in the Latin Church, the last collector of Peter’s pence who visited England. He says: "Now our singers make such a noise in our churches, that we are come to that pass that the whole affair of religious worship is lodged in those singers; although generally speaking, there is no sort of men more loose or wicked, and yet a good part of the people run to church as to a theatre, to hear them bawl."
Knox, the great Scotch reformer, born in 1505, lays it down in his noble and eloquent refutation of the mass, that the true principle of christian worship, is "what has the LORD required, not what has he not forbidden," and that reformers are to be guided by the principle contained in CHRIST’s permanent commission to his ministers. Matthew, twenty-eighth chapter and twentieth verse. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever, I have commanded you. According to this, all worshiping, honoring, or other services invented by the brain of man in the religion of GOD without his own express commandment, is idolatry. This principle, said he, not only purified the church of human inventions and popish corruptions, but restored plain singing of psalms unaccompanied by instrumental music."
Calvin, born in 1509, says: "Instrumental music was only tolerated on account of the times and people. But in gospel times, we must not have recourse to these unless we wish to destroy the evangelical perfection, and to obscure the meridian light which we enjoy in CHRIST our LORD."
Beza, born in 1519, says: "If the Apostle justly prohibits the use of unknown tongues in the church, much less would he have tolerated those artificial, musical performances which are addressed to the ear only, and seldom strike the understanding even of the performers themselves."
Paraeus, the commentator, born in 1548, says on First Corinthians: "In the christian church the mind must be incited to spiritual joy not only by pipes, and trumpets, and timbrels, with which GOD formerly indulged his ancient people, on account of the hardness of their hearts, but by psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs."
We produce the testimony of notable persons, and also that of ecclesiastical incorporations, and we find that in Edward the sixth’s time, the thirty-two commissioners appointed by him to examine the matter of music in the worship of GOD, complained of cathedral singing and ordered it to be laid aside.
In the national synod at Middleburgh, the capital of the province of Zealand, kingdom of Holland, it was resolved, in 1581, and subsequently, in 1594, that they would endeavor to obtain of the magistrate the laying aside of organs and the singing with them in the churches.
It was under the influence of like principles that the noble Puritans strove to effect a similar reformation in the Church of England. Hence in their petition to the Lower House of Convocation in 1562, for further reformation, there occurs, among others this prayer namely: "That organs may be disused, responses in reading of psalms discontinued, and the people allowed to sing the psalms in metre. It is to be regretted that their petition by a majority of one only was rejected. It was sad for themselves as after events proved, but sadder still to the Church of England even, at the present time. "And what was the crime (says an eloquent and able writer) for which these Puritans were suspended, sequestered, fined, imprisoned, and some of them put to death? Simply because they would not acknowledge that man, whether prelate, primate, or prince, has authority to alter the constitution of GOD’s Church—to prescribe modes of will-worship and administration of sacraments different from what He had appointed in His word."
But, farther, the Westminster assembly of Divines met in July, 1643, and continued their sessions six years and five months, and according to the engagement between the Estates in Scotland and both Houses of Parliament in England and on the invitation of the Assembly, commissioners from Scotland were sent to cooperate with them, in all such thing’s as might conduce to the utter removal of popery, superstition and idolatry.
These Commissioners, Rutherford, Henderson, Baillie and Gillespie, endeavored to discharge their duty; and on the 20th of May, 1644, wrote from London to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, then in session, an account of their labors, in which they state: "We cannot bill admire the good hand of GOD in the great things done here already;" particularizing several things they go on to say: "Altars are removed—the great organs at Paul’s and Peter’s in Westminster, are taken down—images and many other monuments of idolatry defaced and abolished."
I beseech you then, brethren, from this historical fact to observe how closely the use of the organ is connected in the minds of these good and venerable men with superstition and idolatry; and to show how satisfactory such changes as are alluded to, were to the General Assembly, they replied: "We are greatly refreshed to hear by letters from our commissioners with you, that many corruptions, as altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry and superstition, are removed, effaced and abolished; the service-book in many places forsaken, and plain and powerful preaching set up—the great organs at Paul’s' and Peter’s taken down.."
To these plain statements, I add the declaration of Dr. Burney, who, although an advocate of the organ, in his great work on the history of music, says: "When the liturgy had been declared, by an ordinance in the House of Lords, January the 4th, 1644, a superstitious ritual, and the Directory published by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, to whom the Parliament referred all matters concerning religion; a new form of divine worship was established in which no music was allowed but plain singing." Hence you will see clearly from the pages of history recording the doings of our reforming forefathers in the church, and also those in power in the state, that they considered it necessary for the promotion of true religion that organs should not be suffered to remain in the churches."
Now I call your attention to the recognized standards of the Presbyterian Church, enacted by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. The Confession of Faith, received and adopted in some way by all claiming that name, is not in the name of a civil constitution which may be altered or amended at the caprice of certain individuals; it partakes more of the nature of a covenant or bond, written, sworn, and filed in a court of justice. By the decisions and statutes contained in it, as founded in GOD’s word, the Church is to be guided in the use of instrumental music, as in other things. I refer you then, to the twenty-first chapter and fifth section, where it is said: "The reading of the scriptures with godly fear; the sound preaching and conscionable hearing of the word, in obedience unto GOD, with understanding faith and reverence, singing of psalms, with grace in the heart, etc., are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of GOD." Again, in the first section it is said: "The acceptable way of worshiping the true GOD is instituted by Himself, and is so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men." Now, I would ask, are not musical instruments in public worship, under the christian dispensation, the inventions of men? If so, are not those who introduce them guilty of corrupting the purity of the church, in faith or practice by human inventions or additions?
Our reforming forefathers would never have effected any thing, if they had not acted on the fundamental principle of rejecting every thing as human addition—as the inventions of men—not found in GOD’s word, GOD’s ordinances, and GOD’s worship.
Now, if you cannot show (as we know you cannot,) that the use of musical instruments is of positive institution and sanctioned by the Head of the Church, in this dispensation, it must follow that it is a practice of human invention, and all who advocate it, are guilty (as the ancient Pharisees were) of "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
5. It is contrary to the practice of the great majority of the Reformed Churches of Britain and Ireland, and even of this country, and ought to be rejected as an unscriptural and consequently a sinful innovation. We have seen that the schoolmen and the fathers gave it no countenance—antiquity stamps no authority on it calculated to cause us to receive it with any respect under this dispensation. Their testimony goes to show that it is a human invention—a novelty, displeasing to GOD, and injurious to the spiritual interest of the Church. Their verdict is strengthened by several decisions of various branches of the Presbyterian Church, on this important subject in modern times.
But before laying these before you, we would refer to what is stated in the Encyclopedia regarding instrumental music in public worship, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: "During these, it is said, church music became more brilliant and always more corrupted by the intermixture of profane music." This being the case, it cannot be considered strange that any attempt to have musical instruments introduced into the worship of GOD, was promptly put down in many instances."
As instances of the opposition offered to their introduction, we will mention the following, some of which came under our own special notice:
An organ was introduced into the Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Scotland, in the year 1807. The Presbytery of Glasgow, in connection with the Church of Scotland, took up the matter—condemned the practice, and at a meeting of said Presbytery, 24th November, 1807, passed the following resolution:
"That the Presbytery are of opinion that the use of organs in the public worship of GOD, is contrary to the law of the land and to the law and constitution of our established Church, and therefore prohibit it in all the churches and chapels within their bounds."
An organ was introduced into the congregation at Brockville, Canada, in the year 1856, and the matter came up before the Synod, in its meeting of that year; and after long and mature consideration at that meeting, and the one of the following year, a resolution was passed by Synod condemnatory or the use of organs in public worship, and it was ordered to be immediately removed.
Another instance we call to remembrance is, that at a meeting of the Synod in the United Presbyterian Church of Canada, held. in Hamilton, June 1st, 1858, the following resolution on instrumental music was adopted: "That the use of musical instruments, in conducting the public worship of GOD, is highly inexpedient, and order the Presbytery of London to use due diligence to see that the congregation of London cease from the practice complained of."
Again, we find that the United Presbyterian Synod of Scotland, at its meeting in Edinburgh, 3d May, 1858, condemned the use of instrumental music in their churches in a series of resolutions.
The Presbyterian Synod, in England, at its meeting in Manchester, 19th April, 1858, had the subject of instrumental music in churches before it, and in a lengthened debate of several sessions, passed a resolution condemning the use of organs in sacred song. Candor requires us to notice that there was a slight change, and it may be only a temporary one, from this resolution at its last meeting, 1870.
In the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland—a large and influential body—a motion was made, a few years ago, by a member of a committee to consider the matter of instrumental music in public worship; when the justly celebrated and eminent minister, Dr. Cooke, of Belfast, not very long before his death, rose and said: "That it was an organic, a fundamental law of this church, that the praises of the LORD should be sung without the accompaniment of instrumental music, and it could not be altered."
The Presbyterian Churches of Scotland, consisting of the great majority of the inhabitants have no organs; nor had the Methodists in Ireland any in my time, in their largest city churches. There were few exceptions to this, and only a few, in England, in cities where their adherents arc the most numerous. The Wesleys, on the whole, have been opposed to such innovations.
Regarding the evangelical churches in this country, it may be thought presumptuous in me, as a foreigner, to express an opinion of their views on this important subject. Yet we have traveled years ago, through many of the States North and South, and preached in some hundreds of churches, without the pale of our own denomination, and conversed with many ministers in these churches, and we believe that if these great and influential bodies had a possibility of meeting in one place, and the worthy, the good, and the eminently experienced and advanced christians amongst them had a fair opportunity of fully and freely recording their vote on the subject, the one-half, yea two-thirds of then and upwards (with the exception of the Episcopal Church) would say we vote for the plain singing of GOD’s praise in His own sanctuary, without any innovation—any human and unscriptural invention. We wish to take our own part in this portion of public worship, without having our mouths closed by the pompous swell of a powerful organ, in connection with a choir made up for the most part of youthful individuals, proud of their vocal capacities and glittering with the decorations of vanity and tending to convert the house of the LORD—the gate of heaven—into an opera, or at least a concert room.
6. It is contrary to the second commandment of the moral law according to the larger catechism—a standard in the Presbyterian Church—The sins forbidden in it are all devising, counseling, commanding, using and any ways approving any religious worship, not instituted by GOD Himself, and corrupting the worship of GOD, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented or taken up of ourselves or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever. I beseech you then, as members of evangelical congregations, whether Presbyterians or Methodists, who are favorable to the advocacy of instrumental music in GOD’s worship, to consider the matter; for unless you are able to prove that GOD, in His word, has commanded organs to be used in singing His praise in this dispensation—the gospel or christian one—you subject yourselves to the displeasure of a jealous GOD, "for if any man shall add unto the prophesy of this book, GOD shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."
Take the second commandment in the shorter catechism,—one which all Presbyterians have learned from early years, and ask what is forbidden in the second commandment—and you find the answer very hard on your favorite innovation—namely—"the worshiping of GOD by images or any other way not appointed in His word." Attempt then to prove that instrumental music is appointed by GOD in His holy word to be used in the public worship of the church in this dispensation, and you utterly fail, because it cannot be done by the skill of any man so as to satisfy a reasoning and unprejudiced mind, receiving GOD’s testimony. Your inability to do this then leaves you no authority for what you practice, and being destitute of this, you are, without doubt, guilty of a breach of the second commandment, and the Great Master, whose eyes are upon you like a flame of fire, affirms, and you cannot escape from the force of it, "I, the LORD thy GOD am a jealous GOD, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children."
In connection with this, you are referred to a very important part of the Confession of Faith termed "the Directory for the public worship of GOD." Near the end of it, it is said: "It is the duty of Christians to praise GOD publicly by singing psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family; and in singing psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered, but the chief care must be to sing with understanding and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the LORD."
Now, to my Presbyterian brethren I would say: do you find anything here about organs or instruments of music employed in praising GOD? Nothing of the kind. The expressions show distinctly the total exclusion of all such beggarly elements from the worship of GOD in this dispensation; "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." This being the case, "I speak unto you as wise men, judge ye what I say."
7. It is impracticable in this dispensation to attempt to imitate David and other kings of Israel in using instruments of music in sacred song. Why? Because we have them not; they were all destroyed, as we believe, when the second temple was burned by the Romans. The history and account of them by writers on Jewish antiquities cannot be well understood. We have no instructions how to make them, nor any one skilful enough to take in hand their construction, with the assurance that they are just the same in kind as were used of old on public occasions in the temple service.
The term "organ" is used only once in the psalter, in the last psalm of it, and it is mentioned only in three other places in the scriptures, so far as we have observed, and it may have been employed in the second temple on special occasions with the dance.
In the imperial dictionary, edited by the Rev. Professor Fairbairn, of Edinburgh, there is an article on music by Professor Lorimer, in which he states the probability that it was employed there. He says: "Innovations upon ancient usage were, from time to time introduced, and among them mention is made in the Talmud of the use of an instrument in the latter temple, which would seem to have been of the nature of a wind organ, provided with as many as a hundred keys." Before this, however, the organ used was a kind of reed, resembling the common flute with a few keys in it, and there was no more resemblance between it and those now in use—say the Boston one—than the sling of David by which he directed the pebble to Goliath’s head, and the great guns used by the Prussians in bombarding Paris.
But further, if GOD had intended that these Levitical, ceremonial instruments employed in public worship on extraordinary occasions, should be employed in this—the christian dispensation—as He intended His own holy law, He would have exercised His care over them to preserve them, as He did in relation to it.
In regard to it, you will please to remember that during the seventy year’s captivity in Babylon, the Ark, in which the sacred records were treasured up, together with the Temple was destroyed, but the Book of the Law still continued to exist, and will do still the heavens shall be no more.
And further, when Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the Syrian Kings, took Jerusalem, he caused nearly forty thousand of the Jews to be put to death, and ordered that all who possessed a copy of the Book of the Law were to be executed. Still, notwithstanding all this amount of opposition, the Holy Law of the LORD came forth unscathed by the fury of the flames kindled by the oppressors.
Could the advocates of musical instruments in the public worship of GOD say as much for their preservation, as the wonderful, perhaps miraculous preservation of the holy law, it would go far to convince us of the propriety of their use in the matter of sacred song in the sanctuary.
And, further, we see no striking or lasting effects derived from those now in use, such as we have observed in some instances recorded in the Bible. David played and the evil spirit departed from Saul. And it is recorded in Second Kings, third chapter and fifteenth verse, that when three Kings—the King of Judah, the King of Israel, and the King of Edom—went to the prophet Elisha for advice, in relation to the making of war, he said: "Bring me a minstrel." And it came to pass when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him."
Now, as the Divine One did not see fit to cause these instruments to be preserved and handed down according to their primitive form of construction, to us, and as we observe no palpable and permanent effects from those at present in use, we must infer, and that without a doubt, pro-organ men are acting contrary to the divine command: "And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount." To the law and to the testimony if they speak not, (in relation to the disputed point of instrumental music in sacred song,) "it is because there is no truth in them."
8. It is contrary to the cultivation of piety, even where no sacrificial idea attaches to it. It has the effect of carnalizing the worship of GOD, by changing the spiritual service of praise into a sensuous, scientific performance, not to the edification of the congregation or the glory of GOD, but too often for the honor of the musicians and the gratification of the musical taste of the hearers. It is calculated to profane the worship of GOD and make the sacred ordinances of His house more like a place of recreation than a temple of the Most High.
And if it be the case, as we are taught by the scriptures of truth, and by the most pious and the holiest of men who have preceded us—that the influences of the Holy Spirit. will always flow into the midst of worshiping assemblies, in proportion as the channels of divine ordinances are kept pure, then what can we expect from those who corrupt the worship of GOD by pompous displays of enchanting music upon the organ or other instruments employed for that purpose.
The history of the Romish hierarchy is a lamentable example of the terrible effects of corruption by means of the seducing influences of a showy ritual. Many were wont to go to cathedral service more to hear the tones of the powerful organ and listen to the splendid chanting of a skilful choir, than to hear of the way of salvation through a crucified Saviour.
The awful abuses that crept in through the use of musical instruments, completely obscured the latter, and covered the public worship with the funeral pall of death.
The worship required in the New Testament dispensation, is that in spirit and in truth—in opposition to the showy and pompous ritual of Rome, and also to the typical and sacrificial worship of the old and abrogated Mosaic law.
And, in as far as the service of praise is concerned, the New Testament sanctions and establishes by precepts and apostolic examples, as we have already seen—not instrumental but only vocal music—the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts unto the LORD.
Except you reject instrumental music from the worship of GOD, under this dispensation, you admit, in part at least, a sacrificial service; after which there is no barrier in principle, that we can see, against the priestly system in all its fullness. Without any hindrance, we may put the formal for the spiritual, and the symbolical for the real. We press this upon you, dear brethren, and ask you, is instrumental music more fit to be introduced or adopted into the public worship of this dispensation of the church, than the incense, the sacrifices, the burnt offerings, the candlesticks, the whole sacred furniture, all, all shadows of the Mosaic law?
To convince you that instrumental music in GOD’s worship is unfavorable to the cultivation of piety, and has a carnalizing effect upon the worshipers, we will show that we are borne out in our opinions, by reading a few extracts from eminent men, some of them not long dead and others still living.
The first we shall read is from the Rev. C. Spurgeon, the eminent Baptist minister, London, England. He maintains his popularity as a pulpit orator in the metropolis till the present day.
In speaking of organs in public worship, he says in the Watchman: "Mark this, we have had nothing novel to attract this multitude; nothing by way of a gorgeous ceremony; there’s not even the swell of the organ; I declined its pealing notes lest we should seem to depend in the slightest degree, from a thread even to a shoe latchet upon any thing but the preaching of the gospel. The preaching of the cross is enough to draw the people—and enough to save the people—and if we take to any thing else, we lose our power and shear away the locks which make us strong."
Dr. Wayland, President of Brown University, R. I., a christian minister, and philosopher, of the same denomination, lately deceased, says in one of his works: "If the kingdom of Caesar is to rely for its existence and extension upon the gratification of taste and imagination, and in general on the love of the beautiful, is it not strange that the Son of GOD, when on earth, did not discover it? Music, and architecture, and ceremonials, have their own effect, but it is not the effect of the spirit of GOD, nor is the voice of taste as powerful as the voice of conscience; and it is by the action of the spirit on the conscience, that we expect the world to be saved. I know that by splendid ceremonial, we may attract the gay and the thoughtless, who go to church as they would go to an opera; but let a house of worship be ever so plain, even like the upper chamber at Jerusalem, if its attendants be really holy men, if it be known that the Spirit is in the midst of them, making men new creatures in CHRIST JESUS, the multitude will come together; you cannot keep them away; they will begin to cry out: ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Conscience will compel men of all classes to attend such meetings, and nothing can resist its urgency; they will come, not to display their personal adornment, not to gaze upon stained glass windows, nor to listen to artistic music, but to know what they shall do to be saved."
The next extract that I shall read, is from the Presbyterian Reunion, a Memorial volume, lately published, to celebrate the consummation of the union between the two Presbyterian bodies. The article, from which I shall read, is by Rev. Dr. Hall, Minister of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, and it is denominated "The Future Church." I do not need to inform you, who are Presbyterians, that being a man of mark in your own Church, his opinion must have great weight with you, in forming your judgment on the subject now under discussion. He says, on page 465 of that work: "In order to realize this high object, and become a greater power for good in the country, we doubt not the church of the future, will seek in a higher degree to popularize her services. And this, we apprehend, will be done, not so much by the adoption of new, as by the resumption of former methods. Take, for example, the subject of singing in divine service. In many churches, this noble function of the Church has been delegated to a few persons, and the appearance a congregation presents to an observant heathen, would be that of a body in a large building, at one end of which, on all eminence above the people a man does all the praying and talking, and at the other end of which, three or four others, on a greater elevation, do all the praising. This plan is bad enough in city churches, but when it is rudely mimicked in small villages, as it has been seen, it is intolerable. It recalls Conybeare’s description of the state of matters in many English Churches, where a set of the worst reprobates in the parish, bawl out ‘the hanthem or shriek out the psalm, out of which the poetry has been previously extracted by Tate & Brady.’ Musical faculty and moral worth, do not, unhappily, always go together; and when the voices in the singers gallery disport themselves in the intervals of their performances, in a way more like their week-day than their Sabbath spheres, the farce is turned into an abomination. We shall live, let us hope, to see this thing banished from evangelical churches. All the history of Protestantism is against it. Luther led Germany to worship in spirit and in truth, in no small degree through the popular hymn-singing. Knox had the Scottish people taught to praise GOD, so thoroughly, that a mass meeting could sing a psalm through without books, and in the ‘parts’ of the melody. The Wesleys, the power and value of whose work can hardly be over-rated, sung Methodism into the cots and hearts of the most inaccessible of the English population. The spectacle of a Church claiming to win the masses, and taking from them the one portion of public worship in which they can all unite, would be, if not so saddening, supremely ridiculous.
"It is idle to say that certain people get music of the highest order elsewhere, and if they cannot have it in the church they will not come. The patrons of the opera and theatre have never been of so much real value in the church, as to be worth consulting, and least of all should devout and serious worshipers be wronged and driven away for the aesthetic satisfaction of casual and patronizing visitors to the service. Let Israel worship GOD as he has appointed, and let the ‘mixed multitude’ follow or keep away. But the army of the LORD is not to change its plans for the idle pleasure of the camp followers. And it is vain to think of winning the world by mere music. What is the value to any Church of such acquisitions? The week-day entertainments supply the genuine article, and without making the church an actual theatre, you cannot compete with them."
Another extract which I beg to lay before you, to show the value and excellence of singing praise to GOD, is taken from Rev. Dr. Lorimer’s History of the Protestant Church of France. In the first part of this work he says: "Accordingly as early as 1520, the sister of Francis I. was a zealous Protestant, while her brother was a bitter persecutor. Fifteen years later, the Scriptures were translated into the French language, by Oliveton, the uncle of Calvin; and shortly after the Psalms of David were turned into verse, by one of the popular poets of the day, and set to melodious music. The last undertaking was attended with remarkable success. There had been nothing of the same kind before, and so the whole music of the people was perverted to superstitious and sinful purposes. Now, the national genius was enlisted on the side of truth. This holy ordinance, says Quick, charmed the ears, hearts, and affections, of court and city, town and country. They were sung in the Louvre, as well as in the Pres des Clerks, by the ladies, princes, yea and by Henry II. himself. This ordinance alone contributed mightily to the downfall of Popery and the propagation of the gospel. It took so much with the genius of the nation, that all ranks and degrees of men practiced it in the temples and in their families. No gentleman, professing the Reformed religion, would sit down at his table without praising GOD by singing. Yea, it was an especial part of their morning and evening worship, in their several houses to sing GOD’s praise. Such offence did this sacred verse and music give to the popish priests, and so much did they dread its power, that a leading man of their number had the Odes of Horace translated and set to music, as a counteractive."
Front this you will see that it was the singing of praise to GOD which He blessed for good, and not the swell of the organ, of which they had had abundance in their chapels and cathedral service. By the latter, they had been seduced from the precious truth of the cross of CHRIST in former times, but by the former the spirit’s influence was descending upon them in rich abundance. In farther confirmation of the views laid before you on the subject of instrumental music in sacred song, I quote from the commentary of Dr. Adam Clarke; in his remarks on Amos, volume fourth, he says: "And I further believe, that the use of such instruments of music in the christian church, is without the sanction and against the will of GOD—that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion; and that they are sinful. It there was a woe to them who invented instruments of music, as did David under the law, is there no woe, no curse, to them who invent, and introduce them into the worship of GOD in the christian church? I am an old man, and all old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive of any good in the worship of GOD and have had 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."
Take an extract from the Doctor’s Christian Theology as well as from his commentary. At page 246 he says: "Is it ever remarked or known, that musicians in the house of GOD have ever attained to any depth of piety, or superior soundness of understanding in the ways of GOD? Is it ever found that those churches and christian societies, which have and use instruments of music in divine worship, are more holy, or as holy, as those societies which do not use them? And is it always found that the ministers who recommend them to be used in the worship of GOD, are the most spiritual men, and the most useful preachers? Can mere sounds, no matter how melodious, where no word or sentiment is, or can be uttered, be considered as giving praise to GOD? Is it possible that pipes, or strings of any kind, can give GOD praise? Can GOD be pleased by sounds which are emitted by no sentient being, and have in themselves no meaning? If these questions cannot be answered in the affirmative, then is not the introduction of such instruments into the worship of GOD, anti-christian—calculated to debase and ultimately ruin the spirit and influence of the gospel? And should not all who wish well to the spread and establishment of pure and undefiled religion, lift up their hand, their influence, and their voice against them?"
9. It is contrary to what is calculated to produce peace in the church of GOD. The prayer of the Blessed Redeemer is, "that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." The chief magistrate said wisely in entering upon the government of this great nation: "Let us have peace." In the church, the people of GOD should strive for the thing’s that make for peace, as far as it can be done consistently with purity. "Pray," says the inspired psalmist, "that Jerusalem may have peace." It is a precious promise to the godly parent, "Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children and peace upon Israel." "Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces." The right-hearted christian—the believer, says: "For my brethren and companion’s sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee."
Now, brethren, we would ask, how can the advocates of instrumental music in the worship of GOD, bring in an instrument of discord, distracting the minds of many of the aged, valued, and experienced members of the church, and yet offer up, as they are bound to do, any of the above mentioned prayers to the Most High? Is there any consistency between the presentation of such prayers, and their practice? "I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say."
It is matter of sorrow, no doubt, when the adoption of what is conceived to be a valuable principle gives offense and produces discord in a congregation; but it is much more so, when the introduction of a practice that cannot be proved to be a duty, disturbs the peace and harmony of the church—when the young, gay and thoughtless, carry matters in a high-handed way, as is generally apt to be the case in introducing instrumental music in public worship—the venerable and hoary headed members are in a great measure deprived of the comfort and consolation they were wont to enjoy, in sitting under the ministry of the word.
Being thus disturbed in their minds, by the introduction of novelties and human inventions—innovations which have always, under this dispensation, been of a corrupting character to the church, they cannot now, as formerly, say in the language of Solomon’s song: "I sat under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet unto my taste."
I state in the language of another what is suited to my purpose here, (viz.): "It is highly criminal to do any thing, that would unjustly or unnecessarily mar the communion or interrupt the fellowship of the church of GOD. The silken cords that bind the members of the sacred family together, should not rashly be broken. "Whom GOD hath joined together let no man put asunder." Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them, says the Apostle of the Gentiles, Romans sixteenth chapter and seventeenth verse—"They must answer it to GOD, who tear the bowels of the Church of CHRIST, without a cause."
It becomes you, dear brethren, to beware of doing any thing that may grieve the generation of the righteous, or cause a weak brother to offend. The strong are bound to bear with the weak, yea, even with their infirmities. To the weak, many things are scruples of conscience, that to the strong are mere matters of indifference. How unchristian, then—how cruel must it be in those who wound the conscience of a weak brother, in a matter which they themselves admit to be a thing indifferent. "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against CHRIST. Wherefore," says the same Apostle, "if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
10. It is contrary to the proper, scriptural, and prayerful appropriation of the funds of GOD’s people. Organs are expensive pieces of splendid machinery, when they are finished, kept, and worked in good style. And a cheap organ, in the department of musical instruments, like every other cheap article, would be a useless expenditure of money, not answering the end for which it was procured, namely, to make up for the deficiency of the congregation in praising the LORD!!
Some of the largest organs, are the following: The one in St. Peter’s, in Rome, having a hundred stops, was reckoned, till some years ago, the largest in the world. There is a large one in Gorlitz, a town in the Prussian dominions. It is said to have fifty-seven stops and three thousand two hundred and seventy sounding pipes! The organ in the Cathedral or Minster of Strausburg, has two thousand one hundred and thirty-six pipes—but now, likely, shivered to pieces—broken to fragments—as the Dagon of the Philistines, by the LORD of HOSTS. The one at Rotterdam, is large, as well as one at Harlem, in Holland. St. George’s, in Liverpool, has a large one, and so has York Minster. The one in St. Peter’s, Dublin, was once reckoned large and powerful. The one in Henry W. Beecher’s church is large, and next to it is the one in the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah, a building capable of accommodating above fourteen thousand people—probably the largest in this country. In the gallery of Trinity Church, New York, there is a large one that cost sixteen thousand dollars! In point of majesty and volume of tone, it is unequalled, in this country, except by the very large one set up in the Boston Music Hall, at a cost of fifty thousand dollars! There is one of considerable size lately introduced into the Congregational Church, in Burlington, Iowa, at a cost of about four thousand dollars. The practical working of these, together with the choir, is expensive.
To show you that people are beginning to take notice of the unnecessary expenditure on this subject, we direct your attention to a late number of the Philadelphia "Episcopalian." There it is stated that "the largest appropriation for church music is by Christ’s Church, New York, viz: $7,500. The New St. Thomas’ in Fifth Avenue, is nearly equal. Trinity and its several chapels average $7,000. Grace Church about $5,500; and St. Ann’s about $6,000. This paper expresses the wish that in some prominent church, the committee would arrange to have the people do their own singing, and apply the $7,000 (a very wise remark we say) to provide as many free pews as possible, just by way of experiment."
I mention these things, though trifling in themselves, to show you that organs, whether bought to praise GOD, in the Church, or located in places of amusement, to act occasionally in doing the devil’s work, are splendid and expensive pieces of machinery. Thousands of dollars, yea, perhaps millions, have been laid out for their purchase, from time to time. How the men of the world—the outsiders, may spend their money, we have nothing to do with in this argument. Not so, however, with the people of GOD. With their right or wrong expenditure of their funds, we have to do; just as we have to do with their morals. You have no right to do what you please with your money, except that which you please be right. GOD, himself, strictly speaking, could not give you a right to do wrong with your funds. If you did wrong, He might overrule it for good, if He pleased, but He can give no right for any one to do wrong, because this would be contrary to His perfections, His law, and His very nature.
The Almighty holds you accountable on three heads:
First—The faculties He has conferred upon you.
Second—The amount of means bestowed on you.
Thirdly—The knowledge that you have these means, with GOD’s blessing, can be made a benefit to the souls of others.
If these positions be correct, as we think they are, then you are accountable to GOD for the proper and prayerful use of your congregational funds. If you purchase an organ to do the work of praising GOD for you—if you lay out funds in doing, what even in your own estimation, is only doubtful; a thing which has not a particle of evidence to show its good effects upon any one, nor never had, under this dispensation, but the very opposite, then the LORD will hold you accountable for doing something worse than the man with the one talent. "You know your duty (that is, in this case, the rejection of human inventions in GOD’s service,) but ye did it not—dread words, (says the poet,) that threw the weight of man’s responsibility on himself directly home and barred excuse."
I ask you, dear brethren, could a professor of religion—a member of the church of GOD—the father of a family—bow the knee at the family altar, before retiring to rest, and ask a blessing, on all the transactions of the day, when he knew he had subscribed twenty dollars to aid in buying an organ for his church, a piece of machinery to do the duty of praising GOD? Could he ask the blessing of GOD upon that subscription as earnestly and sincerely as upon one given to the Bible or Missionary Society?
I am certain he could not—no conscientious man, a member of an evangelical church, and looking at the matter in a prayerful light, as he should, can avoid seeing that the two cases are very different. The one is clearly and distinctly within the rule of his duty, and has a promise attached to it; the other is just the reverse, and has a threatening announced by Him who says: "He will not give His glory to another, nor His praise to graven images." The ordinances of His house consists of six religious acts: preaching, reading His word, prayer, administering the sacraments, praising His holy name, and the Apostolic benediction.
If you advocate the use of the organ, accompanied with the various sounds of musical instruments, then you admit a seventh religious act, which is nothing else but will-worship—a work of supererogation, calculated to draw down upon your head the displeasure of a jealous GOD.
If Uzzah incurred the displeasure of the Divine One for putting forth his hand and taking hold of the Ark, without a divine command, are you not afraid of incurring His displeasure by offering such strange fire, as instrumental music, under this dispensation, upon His altar? Will the great ministering angel, the LORD JESUS CHRIST, ministering at the altar, not be displeased with you for adding the impure thing of human invention, to the simple, clear, distinct and scriptural requirements of His holy law?
But the expenditure of money for this useless piece of machinery in GOD’s service, is large. An organ of such an appearance as you would like to have, if you have any to do the work of GOD for you, would cost at least—judging from the one in Burlington—four thousand dollars. At ten per cent. here is four hundred dollars of interest annually, and an organist at a salary of one hundred and fifty, making a draft on the funds of the congregation, of five hundred and fifty dollars, for an intellectual gratification, a scientific performance, that perhaps not a pious individual there would pray GOD to bless; at all events, he would not ask it the more from the addition of the swell of the organ.
Now, I beseech you, to consider what good that annual sum might do, with GOD’s blessing, to aid in sending the sacred oracles where they have not been before. GOD, by the present war, is opening a great and effectual door for the preaching of the gospel, and the more extensive circulation of His holy word, in all lands; and He is calling upon yon, upon us all, to throw what funds we can spare, into His treasury, and not waste them in tenanting His house with pieces of useless furniture, relies of popery, which, under this dispensation, He will neither acknowledge nor bless.
11. It is contrary to the increase of GOD’s declarative glory. The end that GOD had in view in all His works, whether of creation, providential dispensation, or in the economy of redemption, was His own glory. He is a Spiritual Being, the most glorious and exalted one in the universe, filling immensity with His presence. Man’s chief end, as we learn from the first question in the catechism, "is to glorify GOD and enjoy him forever." We cannot do that without a careful and prayerful inquiry into His revealed will in His own word. The word of GOD, contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the only rule to direct us how "we may glorify and enjoy him." That rule informs us "that he that offereth praise glorifies Him."
The glory of GOD may be looked at, as theologians say, in a two-fold aspect—his essential and his declarative glory. To the former, you who are poor insignificant creatures of a day, can add nothing. But to the latter you can, and it is great condescension on GOD’s part to say to us, as in the fiftieth psalm—"he that offereth praise glorifies me." What condescension on the part of the Holy One of Israel to say so!
After Moses had seen more of it than any other one ever did, he prayed most fervently for a further manifestation of it. It should be our great aim, in all that we do, to declare it—show it forth for the admiration of others and for our own good.
Now, then, can you aim at this, if you gratify your ears in public worship, with what has a tendency to carnalize? Charnock says: "Spiritual worship is performed with spiritual ends, with raised aims at the glory of GOD." No duty can be spiritual that hath a carnal aim."
No one can assert that using the invention of musical machinery in the house of GOD is not a carnal aim—that is a seeking of ourselves. Now, in all our actions, GOD is to be our end; but much more in religious acts as He is the object of our worship. If you look carefully at the scriptures, you will find that his worship is expressed by the seeking of him—"them that diligently seek him"—and not ourselves. Now, as we are not to live to ourselves, that being the sign of a carnal state; so, says the same author: "we are not to worship for ourselves." "For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself," says the Apostle in Romans.
The aim, then, of sounding pieces of machinery in the service of GOD—if, not to worship him, yet to assist in doing so, in the matter of sacred song—is the gratification of a selfish spirit. And GOD says to you, as to Israel of old, when they offered sacrifices with a perverted state of mind: "Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto GOD thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble and I will answer thee, and thou shalt glorify me." How? With the heart and voice, but not with instruments of music.
In glorifying GOD, Paul enjoins the Philippian Christians—"in every thing with prayer, and supplication, and thanksgiving, to make their requests known unto GOD." He enjoins the Thessalonians to join prayer and praise together—"Pray without ceasing, in every thing give thanks, for this is the will of GOD in CHRIST JESUS concerning you." He exhorts Timothy that "intercession and giving of thanks be made for all men." "You have now your spiritual sacrifices to offer, just as those under the law had their carnal ones, and used musical instruments with them. You are now a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifice; and a royal priesthood to shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. He hath, as an ancient author says, joined the crown and the mitre and made you kings as well as priests to GOD and his Father, to whom be glory and dominion for ever."
The Old Testament or Jewish dispensation has passed away—and you are now in the New Testament or Gospel one. If you still retain a hankering after the old ritualistic form—the Levitical code—instrumental music, etc., you should remember that Paul in Galatians and Hebrews proves very distinctly that the design of GOD in giving the law, was not that it should be of permanent obligation, but only as a temporary institution, to show the necessity of a better righteousness than that of the law, so as to lead awakened souls to the Blessed Redeemer, that being justified by faith, in him they might obtain the benefits held out in the precious promises. This being the design of the law, the Apostle infers from it that now, under the Gospel, you are freed from the law.
Living under this dispensation then, you are not Jews but Christians—you are not in the Church in the Old Testament aspect of it, but, in its New Testament feature. There was a church in the world before ever a Jew existed, and consequently we see that their system, in many things, was only temporary and transient, and, when compared with this dispensation, weak and beggarly. Why, then, should any of you be so anxious to retain any thing connected with sacrificial observances—even instruments of music in GOD’s service? You can find enough to offer to GOD that will show the nature of your spiritual priesthood, under this dispensation, without bringing in noisy instruments made of wood, by which to praise the Loire. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity also a change of the law." I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say.
As professors of religion, it is of necessity that you should have somewhat to offer to GOD, for in this way you increase his declarative glory. GOD requires you to give him your hearts, and says: "Son, give me thine heart." And as Christians—not Jews—you are to consider that the actings of the several graces implanted in your souls, are called by the name of sacrifices.
Contrition, brokenness of heart, is a sacrifice that the Divine One has said he will not despise. Faith may be looked upon in some respects as such, for the Apostle says: "If I be offered up on the sacrifice and service of your faith," etc.
Joy is another sacrifice; for alluding to the peace offerings, David says: "I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy. I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD."
Thanksgiving is also one which you are to offer, to increase GOD’s declarative glory. "Offer unto GOD thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High." "Let them sacrifice the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing"—with musical instruments. Jeremiah, in reference to the New Testament times, says: "There shall be heard in this place the voice of them that shall say, ‘praise the LORD of Hosts, for the LORD is good, his mercy endureth forever’—and also the voice of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD." "By him"—that is by CHRIST, says the Apostle—"let us offer the sacrifice of praise to GOD continually, that is the fruit of our lips; giving thanks to his name." No wooden machinery is required in the performance. Good works and alms are sometimes called a sacrifice, as in the case of Paul having received of Epaphroditus, the things that were sent—an odor of a sweet smell—a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to GOD. Righteousness is so spoken of: "Offer the sacrifice of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD. ‘Do good in thy good pleasure to Zion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem.’ Thou shalt then be pleased with sacrifice of righteousness."
Prayer, is another, and a sweet smelling one under this dispensation. "My house shall be called a house of prayer." The pouring of incense, with offerings presented to the LORD, signified that the sweet savour of prayer must attend all our sacred services.
The calling of the Gentiles is represented as a sacrifice in the days of the Gospel, to be presented to the LORD, where "in every place incense shall be offered to the name of the LORD, and a pure offering, for my name shall be great among the Heathen, saith the LORD of Hosts." The Apostle says that he was the minister of JESUS CHRIST to the Gentiles; ministering the Gospel of GOD; that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
At the risk of departing some from the argument, I have been more full in the mention of these spiritual sacrifices than was intended, to show that, under this dispensation, we have offerings to present to the LORD, to advance His declarative glory; and we do not require instruments of music to accompany them in their presentation. These show that the phraseology of ceremonial observances is still retained, without retaining the thing that it was originally intended to point out. All these increase GOD’s declarative glory, in their performance. But instruments of music in His worship detract from his glory, and make his services more like those in the plains of Duro, or those of Juggernaut.
Attempt to show the true position of instruments of music in the days of David, Solomon, Hezekiah and other Kings of Judah, and also, the meaning to be attached to them in this dispensation.
In illustrating this part of our subject we direct your attention to first Chronicles, twenty-third chapter and fifth verse, where David, speaking of the appointment of ecclesiastical officers, says: "And four thousand praised the LORD with the instruments which I made to praise therewith." He took upon himself to make instruments of music to be employed in the service of the temple, when it should be built. Whether he received a direct command from GOD to do this, does not appear here so clearly. He does not say he did.
In second Chronicles, twenty-ninth chapter and twenty-fifth verse, it is said: "He (Hezekiah) set the Levites in the House of the LORD, with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the King’s seer, and Nathan the prophet; for so was the commandment of the LORD by his prophets."
The appointment of these officers as singers in the temple, is clearly of divine command. But can we say as much in regard to the authority exercised by David in making, or causing to be used, instruments of music in the temple service? Does not the prophet Amos in the sixth chapter and fifth verse solemnly reprove David for the improper use of his skill in this matter, where he says?: "Woe to them that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David."
As a prophet, King David had the command of the LORD, equally with the other prophets, in directing the course of the Levites in the matter of sacred song—but do not the Syriac and Arabic versions show the meaning of this twenty-fifth verse in a clearer light, when it is thus presented? "Hezekiah appointed the Levites in the House of the LORD, with instruments of music, and with the psalms or hymns of David and those of Gad, the King’s seer, and Nathan, the prophet; for David sung the praises of the LORD his GOD, as from the mouth of the prophets."
It was by the command of the LORD and His prophets that the Levites should praise the LORD. Does not the verse convey such an idea, in the original, though perhaps somewhat obscurely? And are we not also informed that it was by the order of David, rather than by divine command, that musical instruments should he introduced in the service of the temple? Whether he made and introduced them of his own free will or by divine warrant, is not very clearly revealed—and if it were—it would be of no use whatever to the argument. For suppose the former—and it would not warrant us to do as he did, for two reasons:
First—David was a striking type of Christ; and no one can affirm this of himself now, and consequently dare not attempt to imitate him in this matter without the greatest presumption. The type has passed away and with it, instrumental music, that typified Gospel joy.
Second—The example of Christ and His Apostles forbids it. David’s having or not having a divine warrant would not affect this in the least, nor entitle us to proceed contrary to their practice and command in the praise of GOD. If David did it of his own free will, his example is not followed by New Testament worshipers, and hence it can afford no argument to pro-organ men.
David and other writers of the sacred Scriptures were not inspired in their ordinary doings and every-day thoughts; for inspiration was not given except when it was essentially necessary. It was required, however, when they wrote the Scriptures, to make them GOD’s holy word. In this respect the Bible stands pre-eminent above all other books. It is for their writings and not their other doings that inspiration is claimed.
The Apostle Paul shows this when he says—second Timothy, third chapter and sixteenth verse—"All scripture is given by inspiration of GOD."
Many things which they did besides writing the Scriptures—such as David’s making and introducing instruments of music in public worship, may have been good in themselves, and accepted of GOD, but His permissive acceptance of them, would not be sufficient to prove their divine warrant. On the contrary, a divine warrant would neither render nor prove them acceptable under altered circumstances, in a different dispensation. There were none, as we have seen, in the tabernacle worship, nor does David receive any praise for having introduced them, and this is strong presumptive argument that the whole choir, with the full compliment of musical instruments, were employed only on stated occasions, and by the permission of GOD.
Your attention is now to be directed to the times and occasions when instruments of music were used by the people of GOD under the former dispensation, and in the service of the temple.
First—They were employed on occasions of great national rejoicings. To see this you will turn with me and read in Exodus, fifteenth chapter and twentieth verse: "And Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances." Here you observe, that Moses and all the Israelites praised the LORD, on account of their deliverance from the cruel oppression of the Egyptians, and for opening up for them a safe passage through the waters of the Red Sea. It had a resemblance to your national rejoicing, in which you annually indulge on the return of every Fourth of July, but it is no example for us now in the worship of GOD.
Turn to second Chronicles, twenty-ninth chapter and twentieth verse, and read: "And Hezekiah the King, rose early and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the LORD." Verse twenty-first, "And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he-goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests, the sons of Aaron, to offer them on the altar of the LORD." Now to save your time, you will pass on to the twenty-fifth verse: "And he set the Levites in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David," and so on, as already quoted. Go to verse twenty-sixth, and read: "And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets." Verse twenty seven read: "And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also, with the trumpets and with the instruments ordained by David, King of Israel." Verse twenty-eighth: "And all the congregation worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpets sounded, and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished."
Now observe that this was when Hezekiah and the rulers of the city assembled together to rejoice and praise the LORD on account of the repairing of the temple, and the cleansing of it and the vessels of the sanctuary, which Ahaz in his great wickedness had defiled and cast away. On this festive occasion the priests offered sacrifices and burnt offerings, and the Levites with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, stood and praised the LORD. Now we would ask you, is the use of instrumental music on such a grand dignified occasion in the Old Testament or Jewish dispensation, any example for you to follow now, under the Christian one? Can such a thing occur again?
Second—Instruments of music were used when the Ark of GOD was brought up and located in the place which David had prepared for it, in Jerusalem.
To show this clearly, you will read with me in second Samuel, the sixth chapter and fifth verse: "And David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand," and "arose and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the Ark of GOD." Fifth verse—"And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD, on all manner of instruments made of fir-wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals." Can such an occasion ever occur under this dispensation?
To make it more impressive as to this particular time for the use of instruments, read first Chronicles thirteenth chapter and at the fifth verse: "So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even to the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of GOD from Kirjath-jearim." Eighth verse: "And David and all Israel played before GOD with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets."
In first Chronicles, fifteenth chapter and twenty-fifth verse: "So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD, out of the house of Obed-edom with joy." "And it came to pass when GOD, helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams." Twenty-eighth verse: "Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and. with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries, and with harps."
In second Chronicles, too, fifth chapter and second verse, you read that when King Solomon was bringing the treasures and all the instruments that had been dedicated by his father unto the temple, it was done with great pomp and ceremony that we would never think of imitating, under this dispensation: "Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the city of David." Fourth verse: "All the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark." "And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up." Verse sixth: "And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude." Eleventh verse: "And it came to pass that when the priests were come out of the holy place; (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course." Twelfth verse: "Also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them one hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets)." Verse thirteenth: "It came to pass as the trumpets and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and the instruments of music, and praised the LORD."
Third.—Musical instruments were also used at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, and at the laying of the foundation of the second one.
Read in second Chronicles, seventh chapter and fourth verse: "Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD." "And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep." "And the priests waited on their offices; the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD." "And the priests sounded trumpets before them and all Israel stood." Read, in regard to the laying of the foundation of the second temple, in the third chapter of Ezra and tenth verse: "And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals to praise the LORD; after the ordinance of David, King of Israel." Read, also, Nehemiah, twelfth chapter and twenty-seventh verse: "And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sought the Levites out of all their places to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgiving and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries and with harps." Verse twenty eighth: "And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi. And, also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built themselves villages round about Jerusalem." "And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall."
Fourth.—Musical instruments were likewise used at their annual festivals. The most noted amongst these were, that of the Passover—that of Pentecost—and the Feast of Tabernacles. At each of these, all the males of the twelve tribes were required to be present.
For the appointment of these, and the obligation to attend them, read in Exodus the thirty-fourth chapter and twenty-third verse: "Thrice in the year shall your men-children appear before the LORD GOD, the GOD of Israel." Read, also, in Deuteronomy; sixteenth chapter and sixteenth verse: "Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy GOD in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty." Observe now how instruments of music were used at these feasts. To show you this, we read for you in second Chronicles, thirtieth and twenty-first: "And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem, kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness; and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD." "And Hezekiah spake comfortably unto all the Levites that taught the good knowledge of the LORD; and they did eat throughout the feast seven days, offering peace offerings, and making confession to the LORD GOD of their fathers."
To the same effect read with me in second Chronicles, thirty-fifth chapter and first verse: "Moreover Josiah kept the passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem; and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month." "And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the LORD." With one other quotation, we leave you to read the remainder of the chapter at your leisure. It is said in the sixteenth verse: "So all the service of the LORD was prepared the same day, to keep the passover, and to offer burnt offerings upon the altar of the LORD."
In all the quotations made, showing the employment of the Levites, as far as their skill is concerned, in instruments of music, it is in connection with sacrifices and offerings to the LORD. The instrumental music, in the service of the temple especially, appears to be almost inseparably connected with sacrificing to the LORD. If that be set aside by the great sacrifice—as you know it is—then we ask you, is there any authority from CHRIST or his disciples, for retaining the other, for not setting it aside also? You cannot but see that the one is as much Levitical, if not more so than the other, and ought, through respect to the Divine Master, to be laid aside. A lamb brought into your church for a burnt offering, would be highly dishonoring to your Saviour, your King, your GOD—and what less dishonoring is it to Him, to bring into the house of GOD, in sight of all the worshipers, a piece of wooden machinery for a song of praise. He says—"son, give me thy heart," and you say, by your conduct, No, but instead of our heart, and our voice, indicative of what is in it, we will give you an organ, and its swell will show you the state of our feelings, which we are unable to command language to express.
Fifth.—Instrumental music was sometimes used amongst the people of Israel in meetings of a private nature for mutual instruction—or such as were held exclusively—or set apart expressly—for the services of the temple.
Read with us in first Samuel, tenth chapter and fifth verse: "After that thou shalt come to the hill of GOD, where is the garrison of the Philistines; and it shall come to pass when thou art come thither to the city, thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them; and they shall prophesy."
Commentators quote the Targum here, which says: "It is the hill in which was the ark of the LORD." At that time it was in the house of Abinadab, on a hill in the city of Kirjath-jearim. [Matthew] Poole says: "Prophets here denote persons wholly given to religious studies and exercises, such as preaching, praying, and praising GOD." They were probably returning from offering sacrifices to GOD, on the hill or high place—the location of the ark. Music, as is remarked by either [Thomas] Scott or [Matthew] Henry, "was then used to dispose the mind to receive the impressions of the Good Spirit; but we have no reason (observes he) to look for the same benefit from it now." "These prophets had been at the high place offering sacrifice, and now came back singing psalms." These instruments we would remark were indicative of the joyful feelings of their bosoms, arising from their attention to divine things; and they were, as all musical instruments under the law, typical of the joy arising from the economy of redemption, that is being developed under this dispensation. "I bring you," says the angel to the shepherds, "glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."
To give further information on the same subject, we request you to read with us second Chronicles, eighth chapter and fourteenth verse: "And he (Solomon) appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and to minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required." Then read at your leisure, the twenty-fourth chapter of first Chronicles, and you will find the courses of the priests to their services; and in the next one you will find the courses of the Levites to sing the praises of the LORD with the musical instruments when the priests sacrificed.
Having thus at some length examined the various circumstances under the former dispensation, in which instruments of music were employed in the matter of sacred song; we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion, from the summing up of the various portions quoted, that they were not employed in the stated, ordinary public worship of GOD, even in that day. We have quoted their use on certain times and particular occasions—and we have stated these for your examination, and if there be any more than these, we would say that we have been unable to find them. Were there even more of the same nature, they would not tend to strengthen the arguments of our opponents, because, like the others, they would be such as never could occur, under this dispensation. "The priesthood being changed, there is of necessity made also a change of the law."
2. After having showed you the times and occasions for the use of instrumental music in the service of the temple, as nearly as we could ascertain them, from various portions of the Bible, we proceed now, to direct your attention to the reference to instruments of music in the book of Psalms. With many it is a matter of some difficulty to know how we are to receive the commands and injunctions in the book of Psalms for their use. We do not pretend to be able to remove every difficulty that may arise in the minds of readers of this precious part of GOD’s word, but will endeavor to show you what satisfies our own on the subject. We have such expressions as the following, which the advocates of instrumental music are very fond of quoting, although some of them would not think of using them in the services of the sanctuary:
"Praise him with the sound of the trumpet."
"Praise him with the psaltery and the harp."
"Praise him with the timbrel and the dance."
"Praise him with stringed instruments and organs."
"Praise him upon the loud cymbals."
"Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals."
I need read no more. These are specimens that the advocates of instrumental music in divine worship, parrot-like, are more anxious to quote than to sing. When we do not use the instruments mentioned, what ideas are we to attach to the language employed about them? This is the subject for our consideration, and in the illustration of it we shall take the liberty of availing ourselves freely of the assistance of Brown.
First.—In attempting to throw some light on this subject, we would have you to observe that the style—that is the manner of the writing of the prophets, was the poetical and highly figurative one employed by eastern nations. There is a form of expression, highly colored and emblematical, which every careful reader will observe in the prophetic portions of the scriptures; and this is as observable in the book of Psalms—if not more so—as in any of the others. This is to be attributed to the genius of the eastern nations, and it is as remarkable amongst the Jews as any others, probably on account of their learning, their modes of thought, and their peculiar institutions. We see this from reading Josephus, Horne’s introduction, Stackhouse, Vitringa, and many others treating on the same subject. Carry the idea in your minds that the original language of every nation, but especially those of the East, was very imperfect, and from this fact, those who wrote were obliged to express themselves, in many instances, by signs or picture writing, and by this you will understand, that they put down the figures and shapes, as far as could be done, of such things as were the object of their thoughts and which they desired to describe, but knew not how, for want of language, but by this method. As literature advanced, though very slowly, this mode was succeeded by the use of symbols, or certain marks, which to the eye of an observer, presented the resemblance of a particular object, and thus there was suggested to the mind a general idea. To show you this clearly and distinctly, we wish you to observe that a horn was employed to point out or denote strength, as you have it in the Psalms, "He exalteth the horn of his people." "I said unto the wicked lift not up the horn." "And in thy favor shall our horn be exalted." The eye is recognized as the symbol of intelligence: "Behold the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him." "But all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Again a sceptre is the emblem of majesty—"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah," etc. "The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre." A mountain is the symbol of a kingdom or city. Take a few examples: "The mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established upon the top of the mountain, and shall be exalted above the hills." "And many people shall go and say, ‘come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,’ to the house of the GOD of Jacob," etc. A star is the symbol of a prince or an ecclesiastical ruler, in many portions of the scriptures; but in Revelation it always signifies the last character. "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches," and "the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are (that is resemble) the seven churches." In the same book we have the white horse, a beautiful symbol of the dispensation of the Gospel, and his rider of the LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. White is the symbol of purity, and a bow the symbol of warfare, and when the bow and crown are combined, they form a natural emblem of victory.
We have the red horse also mentioned in the same chapter, and also in the first and sixth chapters of the prophet Zechariah; and both prophets lead us to understand that these are striking symbols of bloody dispensations. In the same chapter we have the black horse. Now as white is the emblem of victory and gladness, black being the opposite of white, must be the symbol of disaster and grief; and the pale horse, mentioned immediately after, a symbol of trying dispensations, remarkably fatal to human life. But Revelation is full of remarkable symbols, and it is needless to quote more of them, as the principle of exposition in all is the same.
And this shows us that by the same method of exposition, a harp, or organ, or psaltery, or cymbal, must now be understood to signify praise and thanksgiving, with gladness of spirit and great joy. In the time of Moses, this kind of hieroglyphic writing was cultivated by the Egyptians, and probably the Israelites, receiving the knowledge of it from them, carried it to the holy land. This peculiar style was employed in the theology and philosophy of the East, but more especially in its poetry. It was adopted by the penmen of the sacred oracles, under the former dispensation, in the communication of their most important revelations to mankind.
Second.—It is necessary, to aid you in forming a correct judgment on this subject, to remark still further, that in the prophetic style, we frequently find a mixture of the literal and the figurative.
Take an example where you must understand the literal in a figurative sense. In John’s gospel, second chapter and nineteenth verse, the Saviour says to the Jews: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
A person standing beside CHRIST, and having, from some eminence, (say the Mount of Olives), where Jerusalem was before him, a particular view of the splendid buildings of the temple, could not be supposed to entertain any but the literal meaning of the expression—yet we learn as we read further in the twenty-first verse, that CHRIST spoke of the temple of his body.
This brings out in a satisfactory manner to an unprejudiced mind, the principle on which you are to explain the various expressions in the book of Psalms, apparently inculcating the use of musical instruments in the worship of GOD. "Praise GOD with the Psaltery and harp, with the timbrel and dance," is an expression that must be considered in the light of the symbolical character of the writings of the prophets, and that the literal must be understood figuratively. To take any other view than this, would puzzle the wisest, best and most talented commentators that we have; for however willing some of them might be to concede the use of instrumental music in public worship, they would abhor the idea of imitating the eccentricities of that ultimately heretical and most infatuated man, the celebrated Edward Irvine, in the admission of the dance. Nor would they accept of the bodily exercise of the Shakers, who assert that the dance, being the token of joy, denotes their victory over sin. The expositors that advance any further in this matter than the principle laid down here, that the literal is to be understood figuratively, cannot escape from involving themselves in many inextricable difficulties. They cannot well attach any meaning to these references to instruments of music, but this: that the Holy One of Israel is to be praised (these instruments being ceremonial, were intended to point out this,) with the spirit and the understanding, for his development of the economy of redemption under this dispensation.
Third.—As further illustrating this subject, you will observe that the writings of the Israelites, the Jews, more than any other people, (because no other people had a place so sacred connected with intelligent worship,) abound with phrases, modes of expression, and terms borrowed from the temple worship and sacrificial services. The prophetical writings abound with such references, and probably in such a style the writers in the book of Psalms go beyond these. To the temple and its sacrifices, the minds of GOD’s people were directed wherever GOD, in his providence, had cast their lot. The prophet Daniel, in great difficulty, we are told "went into his house, and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his GOD." The captives in Babylon had the same intense feeling of affection for Jerusalem, and of course for temple services, implanted in the inmost recesses of their hearts—when they say in the hundred and thirty-seventh psalm: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Their conversation seemed to be seasoned with the salt of ceremonial observances in their sacrificial and typical rites. It would appear as if they could hardly converse without having their expressions interlarded with them. Jerusalem and its grand, solemn and imposing temple services, stood at the top or sum-total of their joys.
Remember these circumstances, and it will appear less strange that much of their language was taken from, and has a reference to, the splendid ceremonial of their temple service. As exemplifying this, you will read with us in Hosea, fourteenth chapter and second verse: "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of our lips." Does the prophet mean calves, bullocks or oxen for sacrifices, as under the law? By no means, but the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for pardoning grace, for justifying righteousness, and for every needed blessing.
In the fifty-first Psalm and seventh verse, the psalmist David prays thus: "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean." Can this mean ceremonial sprinklings and purifications? No! this cannot be, though there is a reference to them, for if this were the case, he would have applied to the ministering priest.
But it must be the case on the principle of those contending literally for the use of organs in public worship, because we read of instruments of music in some of David’s psalms. But if it cannot mean ceremonial sprinklings, what does the phraseology mean? In reply, we have to say that it means the sprinkling of the blood of the God-man mediator, about to come, typified thereby. And seeing his great need, he applies to GOD to purge his conscience with it, as its beneficial effects extended back to the first saint saved as well as looked forward to the salvation of the last one. GOD the Father accepted of the Saviour’s bond of release—the covenant of grace—and on the faith of that, all the Old Testament saints were taken home to glory long before his incarnation.
In the nineteenth verse of the same psalm, the writer says: "Thou shalt be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness."
Can these be the legal sacrifices pointed out in the law? By no means! And yet they can be nothing else, on the principle of pro-organ men, advocating its use from David’s calling upon us "to praise GOD with the timbrel and the harp." Either he means legal sacrifices or he does not. If he does, then he contradicts himself, for he says in the seventeenth verse: "Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it." But he does not desire the legal ones in his case, for he says the sacrifices of GOD are a broken spirit. From this mode of reasoning, you will easily see that the reference to instruments of music in the hook of Psalms is no proof whatever that they should be literally used in praising GOD in the sanctuary.
It is true that GOD appointed the legal sacrifices, to be used for a time, but there was no intrinsic value in them on account of which he could desire them, compared with the infinite worth of the one offered up by his own son—our great interceding High Priest.
The Apostle of the Gentiles says in Romans, twelfth chapter verse first: "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of GOD, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto GOD, which is your reasonable service." Now, we ask, would the literal meaning not imply a sacrifice? But what kind of a sacrifice would the Apostle have believers to present? The literal? No! they were all done away, by CHRIST—our New Testament passover being sacrificed for us. Consequently the one that believers are required to present, under this dispensation, is a spiritual one of praise and thanksgiving, which being a living one, offered by faith, is acceptable to GOD, through our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST.
In the hundred and sixteenth psalm David says: "I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving." And in the hundred and forty-first, he says: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." Now, I remind you that on your own principle you cannot escape from the following unhappy conclusion if instruments of music are to be literally used in singing the praises of the LORD, because David says: "I will praise thee with the psaltery, I will sing with the harps," viz., an altar should be erected in the house of GOD, and incense off, red thereon; for says David: "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense." But who would think of doing that but a Jew? But what, we ask, did the incense here referred to mean? We reply, it was merely an emblem of holy and fervent prayer, offered up through the LORD JESUS CHRIST, by the merit of whose blood and righteousness, and the sweet incense of his mediation and intercession, it becomes fragrant, and a sweet odor to the LORD.
In this manner the instruments of music spoken of in the same book, by David, must be understood. They are all typical (as is the incense,) of the joy and peace which believers show, and of the melody which they make in the house of GOD, when in the public worship of the sanctuary they praise him in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Both Old and New Testament writers, use a certain style of writing—a phraseology that alludes to the national bloody sacrifices of the Jews under the law—but who would argue for a moment, that since the reference to these customs is not done away, nor intended to be so, that, therefore, we should adopt their literal meaning and offer up sacrifices now to the Most High.
But yet we have as much authority for offering up sacrifices to GOD, as we have for the use of instruments in his worship, in this dispensation. If the mentioning of sacrifices in the New Testament be an argument for their use, then we have more proof for sacrificing than using instruments of music in public worship, for the one is spoken of several times, and the other never except in a mystical way in the last book of the New Testament.
When the Apostle is referring to what is to come, regarding himself;—his own death,—he makes use of sacrificial allusions, hence we have more warrant for sacrifices, on this principle, while in regard to instruments of music, he is silent. He says in second Timothy, fourth chapter and sixth verse, of himself; in sacrificial language: "I am now ready to be offered, (meaning as a eucharistical sacrifice,) and the time of my departure is at hand." And in Philippians, second chapter and seventeenth verse, he says: "And if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." In this passage, the faith of the Philippians is represented as the sacrificial victim, and the blood of the Apostle offered, or poured out, as the libation or drink offering, poured upon the sacrifice. Would any expositor from this argue that the congregation should procure a victim for sacrifice, and after pouring wine won its head, then bring it forth to the altar for slaughter, as a sacrifice to GOD? Yet we remind you that there is just as much authority for this as for using instrumental music in the praise of GOD.
In Hebrews, thirteenth chapter and sixteenth verse, the same Apostle says: "But to do good, to communicate, forget not; for with such sacrifices GOD is well pleased." To what does the Apostle here refer? We reply, it is to the oblation or sacrifice of peace offering, spoken of in Leviticus, third chapter and first verse. But is there any one, in this dispensation, who would infer from this that the people of GOD should now burn the fat of rams upon an altar as an offering to the LORD, and then afterwards the minister and people sit down and eat the remainder thereof? And yet if you strictly adhere to the letter regarding the peace offerings, there is just as good reason still to observe them, as what you have, referring to the letter in the matter of praising GOD by a piece of wooden machinery made by the hand of man.
Fourth.—In further explanation of this part of our subject, your attention is directed to the principle necessary to explain the Psalms. It is that the literal sense, in many cases, involves another, a mystical, a figurative, and a spiritual one. You cannot read the sacred oracles, prayerfully and intelligently without observing this to some extent, unless this principle be adopted, a satisfactory exposition would be impossible, on the part of a public Bible instructor. To give you an example of this we refer to the eighty-ninth Psalm and third verse, where it is declared: "I have made a covenant with my chosen." "I have sworn unto David my servant." Now what does the term or proper name David mean here? We answer, that it cannot be understood of the literal or typical David, but must refer to his great anti-type. How do we know that? The twenty-seventh verse shows it—for there he is said to be GOD’s first born. The typical David was not even Jesse’s first born—but the anti-type—the Messiah—the David here alluded to as Mediator, is the co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Son of GOD, his first born or first begotten from the dead. In Colossians, first chapter and fifteenth verse, he is called "the first born of every creature." And in Romans, the eighth chapter and twenty ninth verse: "The first born among many brethren." And in Revelations, first chapter and fifth verse: "The first begotten of the dead."
This last quoted expression, we may remark, (though not necessary for our discussion,) implies that he was first in the order of time; for none came out of their graves, to return to them no more, till after his resurrection. And as he was the first in respect to time, so was he the first in the order of succession, for all the saints follow him. It shows us also that as he died for our sins, there is an excellency connected with the life that he now enjoys; and that it is peculiar to him who is the resurrection and the life to shake off the slumbers of the grave, and rise by an energy that proceeded wholly from himself.
Having made this digression, we return to the point at issue, by showing that the term Jew is not always to be taken literally, more than the terms psaltery, harps, and cymbals, for in Romans, second chapter and twenty-eighth verse, it is said: "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly."' Hence it means, sometimes a christian—a believer.
The word temple, as we have seen, cannot be always taken literally. It sometimes means the Church of GOD, as we find in second Thessalonians, second chapter and fourth verse, where it is said of the great anti-christ, the Pope, the man of sin, the son of perdition: "He opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called GOD, or that is worshiped; so that he, as GOD, sitteth in the temple of GOD, showing himself that he is GOD."
But what temple is this that he sits in? Not the temple at Jerusalem, long since destroyed, but the Church of Rome, that deserved at one time, before its corruptions and awful defections, to be called the Church of CHRIST, but now only the great Romish Apostacy.
The Old Testament has hundreds of terms of expression that cannot be taken literally, without depreciating the sacred oracles to the depth of the Elysian Mysteries. Take, for example, the statement in the forty-first chapter and fifteenth verse of Isaiah, which reads thus: "Behold I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains; and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff." Can this be taken literally, more than psaltery, timbrel, harp, etc.? Can it refer to the splendid threshing instruments of the present day? We reply that it cannot, for these are to thresh grain, but this is to "thresh mountains and make hills as chaff." What then is the figurative meaning? We venture an opinion, without waiting to hunt up commentaries, and it is this: it means public opinion, (a powerful engine,) in its purified, renovated, and sanctified state. Under the direction of GOD’s word and Spirit, it will thresh all the mountains of opposition, that have long existed and stood in the way, to the claims of the Redeemer as Governor among the nations.
But your patience would be exhausted, long before we could exhaust all the expressions and terms in the scriptures, that must be understood figuratively in order to correct exposition. And while we state this, we observe that we do not ally ourselves to that class of expositors, who, in ancient times were in the habit of allegorizing—spiritualizing, almost every thing in GOD’s word. This was a dangerous proceeding, and as much at fault as too much literalizing. The old Latin maxim expresses our opinion here, and it is this: "Tutissimus ibis in medio," that is, you go safest in the middle. Keeping this in your eye, when looking at the analogical use of Jewish terms, in prophetic style; and especially in the book of Psalms, where the phrases, cymbals, timbrel, psaltery, harp, and organs, are employed, we cannot without violating all the rules of correct exposition, interpret them except in a typical, figurative and spiritual sense. To affirm that, because in prophetic language, GOD’s praises are to he sung with musical instruments, we should endeavor to carry out this principle in the gospel dispensation is a non sequitur, being altogether inconsistent with the analogy of the idioms and phrases employed by the inspired writers of the Old Testament, and the spirit of the New.
Having thus endeavored to explain the meaning or sense that we are to attach to the instruments of music referred to in the book of Psalms, and having showed you that they belonged to the Levites, as the offering up of sacrifices did to the priests, and having examined the times and occasions when they were used, and having shown that these have passed away and can never return, we are shut up to the only legitimate conclusion to which we can arrive, namely, that instrumental music is not now to be used in praising GOD; that his worship, in this dispensation, is divested of every local and national restriction; and that the burdensome rites and ceremonies have been all swept away—the shadows removed by the rising of the Sun of righteousness, with healing in his wings.
That system that required festivals to be celebrated with great pomp, and all the males to attend them, offering sacrifices three times in the year in one place, has passed away, as being totally incompatible with the system of faith and worship, belonging to the present dispensation. Hence, when this came in the room of the old one, there was an entire silence about sacrificing priests, order of Levites, bloody sacrifices, cymbals, organs and ceremonies of any kind.
But be it observed carefully, that the language employed to describe these, was still retained by the inspired writers of the New Testament, for there was no dishonor connected with the sacrifices—the priests, and the Levites, were GOD’s own appointment. But that is no reason why the things themselves should now be observed. These have passed away, and just so it is with regard to the instruments of music mentioned in the book of Psalms. They were suited to the infant state of the Church, and now having left this aside and entered upon her majority, they are no longer required. The worship is of a spiritual character. And when the Psalmist says, in the thirty-third Psalm and second verse: "Praise the LORD with harp; sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise;" his meaning is just this: that the sacred songs of GOD’s holy word should be sung skillfully, and that implies the exercise both of the head and the heart, the spirit and the understanding also. And unquestionably the latter means that they should be sung intelligently, that is with a clear head, and affectionately, meaning with a warm heart.
Take another example, where the psalmist says, is Psalm seventy-one verse twenty-two: "I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my GOD; unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel."
Now, according to the analogy of prophetic language, already alluded to, the psaltery and the harp cannot be taken literally here, but must be understood spiritually, typical of the melody in the heart which the people of GOD make in praising the Holy One of Israel.
In the eighty-first Psalm, second and third verses, it is said: "Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery. Blow up the trumpet in the new moon," etc. Now all this is expressive of holy joy and sacred triumph. The pleasantness of the harp, and the awfulness of the trumpet are intended to teach us that GOD is to be worshiped with cheerfulness and holy joy, and at the same time with reverence and with godly fear.
And the expression of feeling is of the same nature in all the Psalms, where instruments of music are referred to. But the mere mention of them gives no more authority to employ them in public worship now, than the mention of sacrifices, whether in the Old or New Testament, gives us authority to offer bloody sacrifices for the atonement of our sins. "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
I would ask, however, the pro-organ friends that go for the introduction of one instrument only in sacred song, why do you not use the whole compliment, the seven others, as well as the organ? They are oftener mentioned than the organ. It is mentioned only once in the last Psalm, and that in connection with the dance. If you think you ought to proceed in the matter, because of the mention of instruments, then you will be obliged to procure all the different kinds and finish off with the dance! It appears to us that the whole of this is necessary if you go for the literal use of organs in the public worship of the sanctuary, otherwise you are giving to GOD only a part when he requires the whole. But why, we might ask, do you not confine yourselves to the book of Psalms for songs of praise, when you are necessitated to have recourse to it, and it alone, to prove the use of instruments of music in the worship of GOD? When you have to go out of it for the matter of praise, we cannot see how it can be of any use to you in proving satisfactorily the manner of praise. If it fail to afford you matter—be deficient there—then why do you turn round and ask it imploringly to render you all the authority and proof that it can, as to the manner?
This very fact proves that the advocates of instrumental music consider they have no divine warrant for using organs in praising GOD. You advance a something for proof, that your consciences tell you is wrong—your own doings themselves being the judges—for if you drew all your matter of praise from the book of Psalms, then your arguments for instrumental music taken from it would have ten-fold more weight, in making converts to your opinion. If it be depreciated in the one, why should it not be in the other? In your case the old adage is fully verified, "the legs of the lame are not equal."
From what has been said, we hope you will feel the weight of the following Apostolic language: "Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." The old dispensation was shadowy, dark and typical; for the temple, the sacrifices, the Levitical priesthood, were only types of another and a better covenant.
This dissolution commenced when the Chaldeans invaded the land of Canaan; and it began to wax old when the ark—an eminent type of CHRIST—was wanting in the second temple; next, when John the Baptist heralded the near approach of the Messiah and his kingdom; and lastly, it completely vanished away, when the city and temple at Jerusalem were destroyed. Then did the Levitical Priesthood, the sacrifices and services of the temple cease for ever. And as the use of instruments of music formed no part of the regular and stated worship of the Israelites, either in the tabernacle, temple or synagogue services, hut were the production and invention of David the King, and permitted by GOD for the use of his own people in connection with their great sacrifices, they vanished away.
The instruments of music belonged to the Levites, but they could not exist except in connection with the priests and the offering of sacrifices in the temple. We have no sacrificing priests under the New Testament dispensation, and hence we have no Levites, nor musical instruments in the worship of GOD. Dr. Owen says: "The name priest is no where in scripture attributed peculiarly and distinctly to the ministers of the gospel as such."
When CHRIST ascended on high, "he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers; but none that we can find, to be priests. They are a sort of church officers, whom CHRIST never appointed." Since there are no priests, properly so called under this dispensation, so there are no Levites; and as there are neither priests nor Levites, so there cannot be burnt-offerings, nor sacrifices of beasts, nor instruments of music.
Priests, Levites, sacrifices, harps, with timbrels, cymbals, and other instruments of music, Were fitted to the then present and imperfect state of the Old Testament church, but they were all to vanish. When the end is once attained, the means must of course be abolished. Under the Old Testament economy, the church was only in its state of infancy, and as children are permitted to have childish things, when they arrive at maturity they throw them away. So GOD, as a Father, allowed his children to use instruments of music and other childish things, in the worship of the temple; but when this state of childhood was gone, and she grew into a state of manhood under the gospel dispensation, then she put away these childish things. The Apostle reasons thus: "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is imperfect shall be done away." "For when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."
If the principles laid down be correct and scriptural, then we would say in reference to instrumental music m public worship: as well may you join with the public reading of the Scriptures, the Koran of Mahomet or the bible of the Mormons, as the introduction of organs in singing the praises of GOD. As well may you add to the public preaching of the gospel and justification by faith in CHRIST, the necessity of penance and purgatory, as the adjunct of organs and bass-fiddles, to celebrate the excellency of our exalted Redeemer. With as good a grace, you may as well in your public prayers to GOD, add prayers to departed saints and angels; or to the sacraments of Baptism and the LORD’s Supper, add the five bastard sacraments of the Romish Church, as in vain to worship GOD by the innovations of organs or any other way not appointed in his word. Where is the difference between corrupting the word of GOD, the appointment of mediators besides CHRIST, or the adding to the sacraments of the church—and the praising of GOD with artificial noises of machinery! "instead of singing with the spirit and the understanding, and making melody in our hearts to the LORD." There is no difference that we can see; and the one, as well as the other, involves rebellion against the divine authority of Almighty GOD, and subjects to the woes denounced in the scriptures of truth.
Instrumental music in GOD’s worship is a dangerous innovation. In singing praises to GOD, every one can take a direct and active part, however imperfectly. But when the organ is brought in, the worship of GOD is corrupted—the LORD JESUS CHRIST is robbed of the public praises of His people, and thus His sons and daughters—believers—are deprived of access to Him in celebrating the glories of His excellency.
Attempt to refute plausibilities urged for their use.
First.—We require an organ to make our services attractive to the young and careless. What do we mean by this? The worship of GOD is a service only as far as the will of GOD is done. Is any addition of will-worship that individuals may think proper to make for the purpose of attraction, a service? Surely not! The word may be considered as a misnomer. For strictly speaking our worship, though we often say so, is not a service. We go to the house of GOD to hear what He will speak to us—to pour out our heart before Him—to have communion spiritually with GOD. We go there not merely to be pleased, but to meet with the LORD according to His own appointment. Do we meet with Him? Do we learn His will? Do we render unto Him the homage of a broken, but at the same time, a loving heart? Is the worship which we render acceptable to Him? Are we profited by our devotional exercises? These are some of the questions that should be asked in examining ourselves or others, and not, Was it an interesting service? and, How were you pleased?
This is the language frequently put to those coming from the sanctuary. And it is often forgotten that an effort to attract by eloquence, or fine music, or by chanted prayers, or an imposing ceremony, or a grand display, such as you find in cathedrals, is, inconsistent with the simple idea of Divine worship. In great displays it is apt to be the case, that attention is drawn to the accessory and is withdrawn from the object.
Communion with GOD is interrupted.
The individual may be saying: "that was grand! a perfect treat!" "I enjoyed it as much as a play!" Still there may have been no worship. It is little less than a mistake to attempt to render GOD’s worship attractive to those who are rebellious and not reconciled to GOD. It is beyond the power of man to do it—though we may go certain lengths to excite their curiosity. It may be said that just so far as aesthetic accessions attract attention, so far it is distracted from GOD, and it has been said that "an attractive service is a distractive worship."
We have something far better than this, and it is a lamentable thing, that so many in the christian church should refuse to abide by it, instead of resorting to human device for attractiveness in public worship.
The better way is: "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me."
"GOD forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, by which I am crucified, and the world to me."
A full exhibition of a crucified and glorified Saviour, with His saving benefits, possesses the only real charm for a right hearted worshiper. To a sincere worshiper every thing else in the form of ritualism is solemn trifling. Let us consider that gospel hearers—whether young or old—have consciences, and we should seek to attract them. They will rejoice to hear the good news of a Saviour’s love. This has an attraction for a guilty sinner, which no eloquence or music, however grand or ceremonial can possess. Men will come where the gospel is preached, and where it is wanting the congregation will lose its attractive power. To hanker after attraction, is apt to be the result of a dearth of the gospel; religion is on the decline there. Grand ceremonial, or splendid music, or showy eloquence, has taken the place of the gospel and spiritual truth. Pleasure, it is to be feared, is regarded rather than profit. Excitement of feeling is aimed at more than the calm of holy devotion. The form of worship is sought after, rather than the reality. Conscience may be in some measure silenced, but the soul is not satisfied Therefore, let the attraction be what the Spirit points out in His word and no more.
Second.—We require the organ, because, though we do not worship with it, we are aided in doing so by the use of it. In what respect, we would ask, can a piece of machinery, making a noise, aid you? Do you hate sin any more, having seen its turpitude in the light of GOD’s holy law according as the organs’ swell may greet your ears? Will any child of GOD—any believer affirm this? No! That which tickles the fancy and gives you pleasing bodily sensations, does not, and cannot, show you the great evil of sin in the light of GOD’s holy law. Do you love the Divine One any more on account of hearing it? Does it lead you to adore Him for what He is in himself;—supremely excellent and infinitely worthy—and for all He has done for you in giving His Son to reconcile you to GOD, by His blood pardoning the guilt of your sin, and removing, by His word and Spirit, the power and pollution of it?
As joy is an affection of the mind on account of benefits received, are you aided in expressing this joy by listening to the swell of the organ and clanging of instruments in the worship of GOD in His own house? You may think so, but we respectfully ask you, has your argument any more weight than that of the poor deluded Romanist who bows down to GOD with images of saints before him, not to worship them, he says, but to aid him in doing it? What childishness, we would say, is it to entertain the idea that a rational, accountable and spiritual being, as having an immortal soul, can be aided by a piece of timber in sending up the joyful aspirations of his soul to the GOD of heaven for mercies received?
The pro-organ men resemble the children of Israel when they carried the brazen serpent with them and had it for some hundreds of years after its formation, to aid them in their devotions. They corrupted themselves with it. How? They said they did not worship it, but it aided them in their religious exercises, just as the organ does. It was surely a splendid ceremonial, for GOD ordered it and Moses made it, and it was a type of CHRIST. But long before He came, the people corrupted themselves with it and the godly Hezekiah called it Nehushtan—that is, a piece of brass—and broke it to pieces.
If you have not a better inducement to aid you in the worship of GOD than the sound coming through the stops and pipes of a piece of machinery, we would humbly suggest, you have great reason to doubt the genuineness of your religion. "By their fruits ye shall know them." But instruments of music, the organ, etc., do not aid you in this important part of religious worship; they monopolize it, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, where they are brought in. The people as we have seen generally set mute and listen with tickled ears to the enrapturing sounds. In various countries we have heard the organ grinding music in cathedrals and chapels. We can testify to what our ears have heard and our eyes have seen, for we had some curiosity to ascertain the truth in this matter, and made it our business to examine it; and we state in opposition to Cromar’s vindication of the organ, that its tendency is to silence congregational singing.
You say, that is the abuse of the thing. You do not advocate that as it is no argument against its use. Granted,—but if you always find its abuse so closely connected with its use, you cannot avoid saying that it is; like drinking strong liquor, the abuse is so great that its use had better be given up, as there is no New Testament authority for it.
Now, we beg respectfully to suggest that in reference to instrumental music in the Christian dispensation, it is all abuse. It is an abuse of the infinite holiness and purity of GOD’s nature to attempt to worship Him or seek aid in doing so, with a piece of machinery, made of timber. It is an abuse of GOD’s people carnalizing their hearts and making them think less of His holiness. It is an abuse of the blessed Gospel of the Son of GOD, making it the occasion of a theatrical exhibition. It is an abuse of the house of GOD—the gate of Heaven, converting it into a concert room. It is the abuse of the example of CHRIST and His Apostles who sung Psalms and commanded them to be sung and not played on an organ in this dispensation. Is it not :m abuse of the holy day of the LORD, to sit in your pews and listen to the rattling and clanging noise of machinery, made it may be by ungodly men, paid for that purpose? Is it not in opposition to the fourth commandment, which requires you to keep the Sabbath holy? Is it not an abuse all through, and nothing but an abuse—dishonoring to GOD and ruinous to vital religion? It is used only when the true spirit of religious worship has departed. It is a substitute for the life and power of religion in the heart and in the church. It’s silence when revivals of religion take place proves this beyond a doubt.
Third.—Psalms were sung and instrumental music employed at the offering of sacrifices in the temple, and hence if we discontinue the one we must the other also. There is no weight of argument here. We lay aside sacrifices unanimously, and psalms and they went together. We do not contend for the latter now, since CHRIST our great high priest, our passover, has been sacrificed for us, "and by one offering He hath forever perfected them that are sanctified." We might as well ask, why not discontinue prayer because we have abolished its accompaniment under the law—the burning of incense. "As incense let my prayer be directed in thine eyes," said David.
The reason is obvious; both prayer and praise to GOD are moral duties, and were practiced by the people of GOD before ever such a character as a Jew was in existence. They are GOD’s own ordinances suited to man’s condition at all times—in every part of the world’s history. They belong to the church of GOD, and will continue to do so, under every dispensation, till the last believer shall be taken home to glory and then one of them shall cease, and the other endure through endless ages. Instrumental music in public worship, is only a temporary thing, permitted on account of the weakness and infant state of the church under the former dispensation, and its removal does not affect praise to GOD; but on the other hand makes room for its full play, saying in its own peculiar way, like the forerunner, John, of his blessed Master, "I must decrease but he must increase."
Fourth.—We ought to have the best music in the worship of GOD, and that is the voice and the instrument of the vocal and the instrumental combined. This looks plausible; for the LORD should get the best of all that we have—it is not too good for Him. He would not accept of any animal in the ancient sacrifices that was imperfect, nor would he permit an impotent man to be a sacrificing priest or public officer in his sanctuary. But is the combination of vocal and instrumental, the best and sweetest that can be found in the world? Good judges say no! for when the voice is cultivated, as the Swedish nightingale, Jenny Lind, now Mrs. Goldschmidt, did, though perhaps few such can be found, it far excels instrumental music in the grandeur, majesty and variety of its tones. Those who have heard the Imperial choristers at St. Petersburg, where no instruments are used, say that there is nothing equal to their performance, in any part of the most pompous, imposing and stylish service in any of the grand cathedrals of Europe. But though it were the very best, if you have no command for the continuance of it, (as you have not,) under this dispensation, it is an innovation that has not the example of the Son of GOD, nor His Apostles, and wanting in that, you cannot expect that its use will receive a blessing from Him.
Fifth.—We must have instrumental music in GOD’s sanctuary, for we have to keep up with the improvements of the day, or be crushed by the march of events.
This is true, we acknowledge, in many things; such as those in the natural, political and civil world. But is there any thing new in the worship of GOD—the way of salvation through the mediation of the Redeemer? Are not His ordinances, as means of grace, under this dispensation, all appointed by him, and are they not laid down in the sacred oracles, so that we cannot be mistaken, and are they not always the same—no man adding thereto or taking therefrom—without incurring the divine displeasure.
Now, in relation to them are we not commanded to "ask for the good old ways and to walk therein, and we shall find rest to our souls"?
The way of salvation, through the interposition of an atoning mediator, is as old as Adam and his son Abel, and it will still continue to be the same—no new foundation for the building, and no atoning and cleansing blood but the Saviour’s, applied to the soul by the Holy Spirit, till all the members of CHRIST’s mystical body shall be gathered home. We never had any but one church in the world since the beginning. "My undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother," says the Bridegroom, i.e., Christ, in the Song of Solomon; but we have different dispensations of the church, and that is a reason unquestionably, why many cannot see GOD’s different ways of dealing with the church, as clearly as they should, under the different dispensations. The march of events will not crush GOD’s people, but not so in regard to His determined enemies. The French people and many of the papal states were anxious to go along with the march of events in ecclesiastical matters, and rushed on heedlessly to introduce all kinds of innovation in their public worship, to please the young and reclaim the careless to give greater eclat to religious ceremonies. Now where has this march of public events led them to?
They corrupted GOD’s ordinances by human inventions, unscriptural innovations, pompous and imposing ceremonies in their cathedral services, and instrumental music was the soul of it all. Inhabitants of villages vied with one another in their musical concerts, as we can testify from occular demonstrations being present at one of the most magnificent of them; all very well as a science, an entertainment, a lawful recreation on a week day. But the bulwark of the Sabbath being broken down, and the sacredness of the sanctuary corrupted, all their musical skill was brought into their cathedrals and chapels, in connection with public worship on the LORD’s day; hence they defiled the sanctuary, and the mediatorial angel ministering at the altar, according to the eighth chapter and fifth verse of Revelations, has filled his censer with coals, the emblems of GOD’s displeasure, and thrown them upon that portion of the papal earth. Divine judgments sometimes begin at the sanctuary or on account of the despising of it. Corruptions and abuses then in the worship of GOD—and instrumental music has aided in giving prominence to them—have drawn down upon poor miserable France the just judgments of Jehovah, who, "is jealous of his own glory, and will not give it to another, nor his praise to graven images."
Sixth.—But instruments of music were not a part of the ceremonial law, and typified nothing, and consequently their use has not ceased in the church.
Will the friends of instrumental music in GOD’s worship affirm that it was a part of the moral law? I believe not, for then they would implicate the Saviour, who, in his devotional exercises did not, that we can hear of, use instruments of music. He and his disciples, sung as we have already seen. Now he came not to destroy the law as He himself declares, but to fulfil it. You say the origin of instrumental music is not ceremonial, and we have seen that it cannot proceed from the moral law. Where then shall we find a parentage for it? To change the figure, it would seem that in this respect it is like the coffin of Mahomet, which, through the power of magnetic influence, is left to hang between heaven and earth. But, granting for argument’s sake, that it is not included in the ceremonial law, does this prevent its ceremonial character? Was not the brazen serpent made in the wilderness, a ceremonial? and yet GOD’s command to Moses to make it was after the delivery of the ceremonial law. It was a remarkable ceremonial, a type of our Blessed Redeemer. Yet, when the Israelites corrupted themselves with it, as already noticed, it was broken to pieces.
Its origin, which was the very best, did not secure its preservation. Heaven’s gifts, even the best of them, are sometimes converted by the sin and unbelief of men into curses. On this principle our LORD tells the Jews: "if I had not come unto them they had not had sin," (that is compared with the sin of their unbelief in refusing to accept him,) "but now have they no cloak for their sin."
David was a highly honored prophet of the LORD, as well as a King. He says: "The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue." And perhaps he was the only one of all the Old Testament prophets, whose name the LORD JESUS CHRIST took. But, notwithstanding all that, he was not an angel, nor inspired more than the Apostles, in every thing which he said and did. As already hinted, it may be questioned whether, in the invention and appointment of instrumental music in sacred song, he had any positive and direct command from GOD. If the advocates of the organ in public worship deny its ceremonial character, because not included, as they say, in the ceremonial law, and neither they nor any others can prove that it is of moral law origin, then observe all the authority that can be claimed for it is the example of David. And you know that he was a typical character in many things which he did, but now as Peter says: "he is both dead and buried," and consequently with his departure, many things which he did departed in the sense of being no longer used than to the end of the Old Testament dispensation. And why? Because the type and the typical things gave way to the glorious anti-type, who was David’s son and David’s LORD.
In opposition to this typical conduct in the matter of instrumental music in sacred song, we have the example of our Redeemer and his Apostles exercising themselves in singing GOD’s praises without any mention of the accompaniment of musical instruments. If the pro-organ men will insist on argument any further, they must bring their authority from them, or at least account satisfactorily for their silence in the matter. If they will still insist upon the unceremonial character of it, they must resort to David’s practice for its origin, but he, as a type of CHRIST, and many typical thing, which he did, have all passed away, being eclipsed by the brilliant light of the anti-type who says: "I am come a light unto the world."
In the language of His holy word: "the day spring from on high hath visited us," and consequently the shadows of Levitical ceremonies have passed forever away.
Seventh.—But it is said there are harps and harpers mentioned in several places in the book of Revelations, and whether the reference is to the church militant or the church triumphant, it shows there were musical instruments. They are referred to in the fifth chapter and eighth verse "having, every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints." And in the fourteenth chapter and second verse, "And I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps." And in the fifteenth chapter and second verse, "having the harps of GOD."
There is a difference of opinion amongst pro-organ men respecting the propriety of quoting such passages. Some of them say these references are excellent proof; for they show the use of instruments of music, whatever be the meaning of the pas sage where they are spoken of.
Others, judging as we think more correctly, say that, where there are so many things, figurative, mystical, and hard to be understood, you are only weakening our cause by making such quotations.
Now, we will venture to give our opinion, in the midst of acknowledged difficulties, and we think we can show you that there is no proof for instrumental music in the worship of GOD in this book.
The prophet, John, as we learn from the fourth and fifth chapters of it, had an extraordinary vision. He saw a throne set in heaven, intended to symbolize the highest authority, and one sat on it, who is not described by any particular name, shape or form. But he was, to look upon, like a jasper or sardine stone. God the Father is the occupier of it, as he is distinguished from the Lamb in the fifth chapter—and from the Holy Spirit before the throne described as seven lamps of fire, on account of the fullness, variety, and efficacy of his influence He saw also before the throne, "four living creatures," the representatives of the gospel ministry;" and "twenty-four elders," the representatives of the people. Taken together, they represent the collective body of GOD’s people; the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles—under the old and new dispensations. But it is the latter that he keeps before his eye, because of the amount of opposition they had to contend with from persecuting civil powers. It is in reference to those composing this company, that harps are mentioned in this book; and the illustration is taken from the ceremonial observances in the temple service, on account of the grandeur of the music. The advocates of instrumental music in GOD’s service, can receive no assistance from the mention of harps in the fifth chapter, because they are connected with the censer or goblet smoking with incense, and the golden altar from which it was taken. They cannot be separated, hence they are referred to figuratively, as a part of the furniture of the temple, and to give them a literal meaning and to say that they were literally used, would only show ignorance on the part of a scriptural expositor.
The same thing is true in reference to the expression in the fourteenth and fifteenth chapters. If the advocate of the organ would show any consistency in arguing from the fourteenth chapter, he must ascend the literal Mount Zion with a literal lamb, but as that cannot be done, let him give up his literal harping and believe that the figure is intended to symbolize the disposition of this collective body for the exercise of GOD’s praise. The prophet "heard a voice from heaven as the sound of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, and the voice of harpers harping with their harps." These are called in the fifteenth chapter, the harps of GOD, and what can this imply but that it was the sound of their own voices which John heard. They were harpers, but their own voices tuned by the spirit of GOD uttering plaintive and solemn, but peculiarly pleasant sounds were the harps. When you consider the sound of water, the crash or roar of thunder, and the tones of the harp, you find it difficult to conceive a proper idea of such a musical combination as this. On listening however, as we have done, to the music of a very large worshiping out door assembly, the force of the illustration can be fully appreciated. There is a gravity, solemnity, strength and pathos, in the sound of a multitude of human voices united in the work of praise with which neither the light airs of the theater nor all the varieties of a concert room can be compared. You can easily see that the bare mention of harps in a few places in this book can give no countenance to the opinions of pro-organ men. They cannot be understood in any other way than as emblems or symbols like the crowns, palms, white robes, incense, candlesticks, stars and other symbols, very abundant in Revelation. Assemblies of worshippers then with their hearts in a suitable frame for praise, under this dispensation, are symbolized in all these places. And no one having a correct knowledge of the variety of symbols here employed would for a moment entertain the idea of explaining them literally; nor attach the least importance to them, as an argument for the use of instruments of music in the worship of GOD.
And now, dear Brethren, I thank you for the patience and marked attention with which you have listened to this tedious discussion. I have endeavored, in compliance with your request, to deliver my opinions freely and frankly on the subject of instrumental music in the worship of GOD.
I have kept nothing back that I know of through fear, nor have I been induced to utter any thing through favor, but what I think right. I respect and esteem my friends of the various evangelical denominations around me; and whatever may be the consequences of this meeting, I can assure you I have no motive, of a mercenary nature, inducing me to appear before you, nor any hostile feelings toward any one of my neighbors. My motive is to oblige my friends requesting my opinions, and to advance the spiritual interests of all, and their increase in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST.
I hope I am not become your enemy because I tell you the truth. It is the glory of Protestantism that it allows the right of private judgment and free discussion in all lands, but especially in this, the boasted one, of civil and religious liberty.
Every individual is bound to examine for himself the meaning of the sacred oracles on all subjects, but particularly the manner of approaching GOD in the worship of his sanctuary.
You say you have heard my opinions now, and you will just do as you like in the matter, notwithstanding all I have said. Well, I have no wish nor power to lay restrictions upon you, for I am not your bishop; but I beg respectfully and frankly to say, even though it be in quaint language, you cannot do as you like in the worship of GOD, except you like what is right; your liking may be far wrong in many things, particularly on this subject; and nothing can be right in approaching near to GOD in his ordinances, except what your consciences, enlightened by His holy word may distinctly point out. Neither your likings nor your consciences are the rule ruling in the matter of this discussion—as the Reformers well said—but the rule ruled by the word of GOD—"the only infallible rule of faith and practice." "To the law and the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." No man, whatever be his state of mind, has a right to take strychnine for self destruction, and if I saw one of my neighbors about to do so, I would not for the sake of boasted liberality and charity say, my dear sir, take it if you like, for, since you like it, it may do you good! Would not this be a lie palmed upon the poor infatuated individual? I would take a different course and cry at the utmost pitch of my voice—refrain, refrain! Poison! poison! and running forward to him, would dash the poisoned cup from his lips; and this would be one of my ways of showing my liberality and esteem for my neighbor.
Believing as I do from reading church history, that many inventions, some of them very pleasing to the ear, have crept by degrees into the christian church; believing that any attempt to praise the Infinitely Holy One by the noise of sundry kinds of machinery in public worship, is an unscriptural innovation, displeasing to GOD and unprofitable to man, I count it my duty to, lift up my voice against it.
As a watchman on Zion’s walls, however feeble, I am constrained to put the gospel trumpet to my mouth and give a distinct sound—speak GOD’s word unto men "whether they will hear or whether they will forbear."
Endeavoring to be a faithful witness for every revealed truth, and a reprover of every error, every departure from apostolic example in the worship of GOD, according to my ordination vows, I am constrained to testify against all unwarranted additions in the praises of GOD in His sanctuary.
I manifest my respect for my neighbors and friends, as well as my liberality, by thus showing them the danger of all such, in the worship of GOD. Let us hope and pray that the great Head of the Church may bless our humble performance for the advancement of His declarative glory, and your spiritual and eternal interests. Amen.