Instruments of Music in the Service of God

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An Examination of the Subject from the Teaching of Both the Old and the New Testaments


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The fundamental principle of all true worship or service is, it must be done in obedience to God. Jesus said: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." To change God's appointment or to worship in a way not commanded is to refuse to worship or serve him. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the, commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Deut. 4: 2, R. V.) "Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes. What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add there to, nor diminish from it." (Deut. 12: 8-32, R. V.) "Thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God." We are to seek to do what is right in the eyes of God and to do what he commands, neither adding to nor taking from.

God gave his people judges until the days of Samuel, the prophet. "His sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel . . . came to Samuel, . . . and said unto him, . . . Make us a king to judge us. . . . And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should reign over them." (1 Sam. 8: 3-7.) To ask a change of God's order, even when perverted by bad men to evil ends, was to reject God as their Ruler and King. God warned them of the evils the kings would bring upon them, but granted their request and permitted them to make the experiment of serving God in a government of their own, of seeking earthly greatness through an earthly kingdom, and at the same time trying to serve him in his appointments. He permitted this that they might prove the evil results of supplanting God's order with their own inventions. All that pertained to the kingdom and its earthly greatness is given to us as warning to be avoided, not as example to be followed. In this double effort God permitted them to introduce, and tolerated things that would promote earthly grandeur and display while seeking to do the things that he commanded. Two accounts of this experiment are given. One of these is by the prophet Jeremiah, as is generally believed, in the books of Samuel and Kings. Jeremiah was a prophet of God. A prophet was the mouthpiece of God and spoke for him to men. He gives especially the efforts to serve the Lord and the failures through the kings. The other account — supposed to have been written by Ezra, the priest gives — the things done to exalt and glorify the nation among other nations, and is contained 1n the books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah. A priest spoke to God for the people. These last were written to excite the national pride, to arouse the people to reestablish the kingdom in its former glory after the return from the captivity of Babylon. Hosea (13: 9-11. R. V.) tells the origin and the end of the experiment: "It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help. Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath." God gave them kings to punish them for desiring to set aside his government; and when the punishment of the kings drove them away from God instead of drawing them back to him, he took the kings away in his wrath and left them a prey to their enemies, without either an earthly or a heavenly king to defend them. This whole experiment of a kingdom was a warning to others not to change the order of God. To do so must bring ruin. In the history of these kings, as given by Jeremiah, not a single mention is made of the introduction or use of instrumental music in the regular worship of God; nor is it mentioned with approval by any of the prophets, although all of them, from Isaiah to Malachi, prophesied in the days of the kings, when the instruments were in use. The timbrels and dances by Miriam and the women in their rejoicing over the passage of the Red Sea are mentioned (Ex. 15: 20), when Saul met the minstrels and prophesied (1 Sam. 10: 5-10), and when David attempted to bring up the ark from the house of Abinadab and Uzzah was slain. (2 Sam. 6: 5-7.) It is mentioned as a part of the worship only in the books written by Ezra in his efforts to excite the national pride and to reestablish the kingdom in its earthly glory. When mentioned by him, he is careful always to keep it clear that the use of instruments was ordained by David, as distinct from the things ordained by God for his service. The account of its first establishment by David is given in 1 Chron. 16: 4, 5, R. V.: "He [David] appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, and to celebrate and to thank and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph the chief," and others under him. David appointed these. Distinct from these were "Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests with trumpets continually, before the ark of the covenant of God." God commanded Moses to make two trumpets to be sounded by the priests. (Num. 10: 2.) "On that day did David first ordain to give thanks unto the Lord, by the hand of Asaph and his brethren" (1 Chron. 16: 7, R. V. ) Throughout the chapter the distinction is kept up between the priests with the trumpets appointed by God and the Levites under Asaph appointed by David to perform on the instruments of music. Verse 42, A. V., says, "With them [the prie sts] Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those that should Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/6 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/7 were ordained by God through Moses; the cymbals and other instruments, by David. Nehemiah gives an account of the dedicatory services held in the days of Zerubbabel. In chapter 12: 24, R. V., be says: "And the chiefs of the Levites . . . to praise and give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward against ward." Verse 36 says: "And his brethren, . . . with the musical instruments of David the man of God." Verse 45 says: "And they kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, and so did the singers and the porters, according to the commandment of David, and of Solomon his son."

These are the places in which instrumental music in the service is mentioned in the Bible, and it is always attributed to David in contrast with the things ordered by God. No service appointed or approved by God is attributed to any man as this is to David. God tolerated it as a part of the kingdom, itself a rebellion against him—as a part of the experiment to maintain a kingdom with earthly glory and to serve God at the same time. After David invented the instruments of music, he, in the psalms, exhorted that they should be used to praise God.

In 1 Chron. 22: 5 David gives the spirit that prompted the kingdom and use of instrumental music: "David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death." This service was introduced to add earthly splendor to the kingdom among the nations, not to obey God. That this earthly splendor and glory were not pleasing to God is clear. Haggai (2: 7-9, R. V.), the prophet, said of the second temple: "I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. . . . The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts." Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to the latter temple, though so greatly inferior in earthly Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/9 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/10 Does he say that a bishop cannot have more than one wife? Now from these passages of scripture, I ask that the prisoner, the Bible, be convicted and be punished under the laws of Tennessee." (Elder Rich, of the Mormons.)

Who can make a better argument for instrumental music in connection with worship than that, or who can make an argument for instrumental music in worship that does not equally justify polygamy? There is no evidence that Moses had more than one wife at one time; nor are Saul and Solomon anywhere held to be saints. Then Jesus himself tells that polygamy and easy divorce were permitted or tolerated, not approved. Jesus says: "Have ye not read, that he which made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh? So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery." (Matt. 19: 4-9, R. V.) Jesus gives the reason God tolerated polygamy; for the same reason he tolerated the kingdom and instrumental music. He gives his reason for these when they established the kingdom. While he tolerated them, he did not impute them as sin.

Even if it had been approved in the Jewish dispensation, this would not justify it in the Christian any more than it would justify animal sacrifices, infant church membership, polygamy, and the burning of incense. The old covenant was fulfilled, nailed to the cross, and taken out of the way by Christ. (Read 2 Cor. 3: 6-10; Gal. 4: 21-31.) But instrumental music was only tolerated for a time, not approved by God, in the Old Testament. Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/12 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/13 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/14 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/15 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/16 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/17 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/18 Page:Instruments Of Music In The Service Of God.pdf/19 affiliate with and build up the wrong and to encourage them in the way that leads to ruin; to depart from the order of God to go with them is to love friends, father, mother, brothers, and sisters more than God. "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Matt. 10: 37.) "If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." These mean that a man must separate from and give up all these to be true to Christ. True love to these friends and ourselves demands the same course. There is no real kindness in going with them in wrong courses and encouraging them in setting aside the law of God; it may gratify the fleshly feelings, but it only helps them and ourselves forward to ruin. Love is the fulfilling of the law. True love to every creature in the universe is perfected and manifested in doing the will of God. That is love to God, and love to God is the only true love to every being in the universe of God; and be sure God is not pleased when his children violate his law to preserve standing in and harmony with a church setting aside his order. It will be no alleviation of the torments of hell to think we encouraged our children and friends in the course of rebellion by going with them. God especially warns: "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to wrest judgment." (Ex. 23: 2, R. V.)

Then my faith is that it is the duty of those who believe a church sets aside the order of God to strive to correct that wrong, to be patient and forbearing in it; and if they fail in this, to withdraw and at once go actively to work to form a true church and observe the true service of God. If they quit work because others have gone wrong, they will die and the cause of truth will perish in their midst. Go to work to maintain the truth of God and to induce others to accept it, and God will bless you. "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed: to love the Lord thy God, to obey his voice, and to cleave unto him: for he is thy life." (Deut. 30: 19, 20, R. V .)

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.