Musical Instruments in the Lord's Service

In view of the spreading desire for the use of musical instruments in our halls and meeting rooms, the following remarks on the subject from one to whom “Brethren” as a body owe probably more than to any other, may prove stabilizing to those who may be undecided on this not unimportant question.

Speaking of the High Church party in the Church of England during the last century, and their efforts to draw souls into their ranks by showy and attractive services, he says,

“Let it be noted, that this display is not to win to hear the truth, no ‘catching with guile,’ as people have falsely applied this text; nor even what Dissenters and Presbyterians do, or are anxious to do, namely, have organs and good singing to attract, and then present Christ (itself an unholy and evil practice, and savouring of priestcraft), but they are to be attracted thus to worship” (Coll. Writ, of J. N. D, Vol. 15, p. 466).

Here we have this man of God’s estimate of the use of “organs and good singing” to attract the crowds, even when the object is to hold up Christ before them — the very plea put forth today for the introduction of such methods with us. No one objects to good singing as that which comes from hearts happy in the Lord. But when the effort is made to have the singing “good” after a worldly sort, by the use of musical instruments, accompanied by quartets or choirs selected for the purpose, it becomes, as Mr. Darby deliberately judges, “an unholy and evil practice.”

He was not alone in this appraisement of music as a means of attracting people in to hear the gospel; trusted teachers among us since the beginning shared the same judgment, and it is late in the day to revise our judgment formed by the ministry of such men. But as worldliness increases in other things we see its manifestation with us in the use of instruments as well. The evangelical denominations, in their earliest and best days eschewed the use of musical instruments in their simple services; but as time passed and the mass left their “first love,” organs, at first protested against by the more spiritual, were introduced. Choirs followed, then concerts and entertainments, ending with the world controlling the church and Modernism now claiming a place in it! And it is not because “Brethren” have become more spiritual that instruments are called for now, but the reverse.

As a mere help to keep the singing in line, one might not object so strongly to them (though even here it is safest to keep away from the danger of its abuse); but when designed to make services more attractive, or a bait to draw in the people, it becomes as Mr. Darby has stated, “an unholy and evil practice.”

The following from the pen of Mr. H. A. Ironside, in his Lectures on Daniel, pages 47-50, is in line with the above, and is given one’s hearty endorsement. “The special place given to the great orchestra is very noticeable; as much so as in large worldly religious gatherings at the present time. It excites the emotions, and thus, working upon the feelings, gives people a sense of devotion and religiousness, which after all may be very unreal. In the Old Testament dispensation musical instruments were used in the ornate temple services; but there is certainly no warrant for it in the New Testament. People may call it worship to sit and listen to a trained, and possibly unconverted, choir and orchestra rendering sweet and touching strains; but music simply acts upon the sensuous part of our natures, and has nothing to do with true adoration of the Father and the Son, which must be in spirit and truth to be acceptable to God. Those who plead for its use, because of the place it had in Old Testament times, should remember that that was a typical dispensation… A minister once remarked to me that many aesthetic persons attended his church to worship God in music; so he sought to have the best performers and the finest music it was possible to obtain, as otherwise the people would not attend. What a delusion is all this!”

Yes, what a delusion! Let saints and servants of the Lord take heed, therefore, and eschew anything approaching to “strange fire” in either the worship or service of the Lord. Let the Word be preached earnestly and faithfully, yea, fervently; and let believing, persevering prayer be made to God for its success; let saints sing heartily, and correctly, as the Lord may enable them; let them not only attend the meetings in person but do what in them lies to bring others with them — especially the unsaved. Then sinners will be saved, saints will be edified, and best of all, God glorified. But if we attempt to copy the world-church about us, and stoop to means not sanctioned by Scripture, we shall find the tone of all the meetings lowered, the reading meetings more scantily attended, and the prayer meetings less loved.