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But as Paul, aster granting the Corinthians their argument, and condemning their conduct even on that ground, proceeded to prove that the thing itself was unlawful; so I hope to prove the unlawfulness of Instrumental Music in Christian Worship.
Instrumental music, I grant, was before the times of David; but if it were for the purpose of promoting civil joy, or when employed in divine worship, authorised by divine appointment, nothing favourable to your argument can be thence inferred.
Musical instruments were first invented by Jubal, a descendant of Cain, for the promoting of civil mirth; and to this purpose they have been employed in all ages and nations to this day. That they were used in the worship of God before the times of David, is true; but it is also true, that there was divine authority for it, Trumpets were appointed to be used on various occasions, by the law of Moses ;* also the psaltry, the harp, and the cymbal. You suppose it was not their use in religious worship, but the manner of it, that was the object of divine appointment. The use of them, you suppose, was discretionary, and not appointed; seeing mention is made of them previous to their being employed in the temple service, But the phraseology of the passage in 2 Chron. xxix. 25, does not favour such an idea. Matthew Henry thus expounds it: “While the offerings were burning upon the altar, the levites sang the song of the Lord, ver. 27; the psalms composed by David and Asaph, ver, 30, with the musical instruments, which God by his prophets had commanded the use of, ver. 25.” It is allowed however, that the appointment of instrumental music in the times of David, respected “the special purposes to which it should be applied :" but this does not prove, that it was not previously appointed for other sacred purposes.
You seem to take it for granted, that nothing was appointed of God, unless that appointment was express :
* Lev. xxiii. 24.
Num. X. 1-10.
but God has not always conveyed truth in this manner. Though we read of no express appointment, but merely of things being ordered, or done, by men who were divinely inspired, yet the same thing is in many cases clearly to be understood. We are not expressly told that God appointed the means of Naaman's cure, namely, his bathing seven times in Jordan; but as a prophet of God directed him to it, we certainly conclude that he did so. The Spirit of God that was in the prophet directed it. Thus, though the use of the psaltry, tabret, pipe and harp, in sacred things, be not expressly commanded till the times of David; yet being used before his time as the means of prophetic inspiration, their being divinely appointed for the purpose, cannot be denied. 1 Sam. x. 5. 2 Kings iii. 15.
I incline to think that the use of the timbrel by Miriam and the women of Israel, was merely civil. It was an instrument necessary to the dance, and mostly, if not invariably, connected with it. It does not appear to have been used in singing the song of Moses, but at certain intervals. On account of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, one while they sang praises, and another while Miriam and the women went forth with the timbrel and the dance. It was a great national deliverance; and civil joy, with the common expressions of it, were mingled with their praises of Jehovah. But granting it was a part of religious exercise, it was introduced by one who in the very act is called 'a prophetess;' a name which is no where else ascribed to her; and no reason that I know of can be given for its being ascribed to her here, but that of intimating that she acted under divine authority. If, as you contend, it was a part of “discretionary” worship, the same must be said of dancing, which accompanied it; and then it would be lawful in our worshipping assemblies to introduce not only the pipe, but the dance.
Exod. xv, 20.
“Positive institutions, you say, were confined to time, place, manner, and other circumstances; but instrumental music was governed by such a variety of discretionary considerations as find no room in the institutes of judaism. It might be performed at any other time, as well as at the stated periods of public worship ; in any place, and on various public occasions, which are not specified by any law.” You will allow the offering of sacrifices to have been a part of instituted worship; yet there are almost all the varieties attending it, as those which you have mentioned. Those of Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Jacob, were not “specified by the letter of any law; but were offered on a great variety of occasions, and prior to the time that the ark had rest, at as great a variety of places. Instead therefore, you might say, of the offering of sacrifice to God, possessing every property of a positive institute, it does not appear to possess any of its essentials. The truth is, not one of the things you mention afford any proof for or against instituted worship; each is equally applicable to sacrifice and praise, though the one is a positive and the other a moral duty.
Some of the occasions you refer to, in which instrumental music is used, might be merely civil. Such appears to be the going forth of Jephtha's daughter, with timbrels and dances,' on occasion of his victory over the Ammonites; and the female processions on occasion of David's having slain Goliah, and the Philistines being defeated. A band of Bengal music was sent before Messrs. Thomas and Carey, in their curious procession to Bote Haut;* to which, if I had been in their place, I should have had no objection, but rather have enjoyed it, as it was an expression of the civility and friendship of the Booteas. Others I allow were religious; as, the bringing up of the ark, the building of the city wall, &c. But in these instances there are plain traces of divine authority, and such as indicate that instrumental music was approved of God, before the arrangement of the temple service. The music used on the former of these occasions must have been previous to this, as it was before the ark had rest. Yet the whole of that solemn procession was 'before the Lord,' even the exercise of dancing and playing, which exposed David to the revilings of Michal. This was his own defence against her. 2 Sam. vi. 21–23. God accepted the worship too, and punished the reviler. But as Paul inferred from the acceptance of Abel's sacrifice, that it was offered 'in faith;' so may we infer from the acceptance of the worship of David, that it was performed in obedience to the divine will. The conduct of David in praising the Lord with instruments of music, is more than once mentioned as a model of divine authority, for after times. Not only did they follow his example in the times of Hezekiah, as being according to the commandment of God and his prophets, 2 Chron. xxix. 25; but when the foundation of the second temple was laid, the levites are said to have praised the Lord with cymbals, according to the ordinance of David, king of Israel.' Ezra iii. 10. And afterwards when the wall of the city was built, the singers are described as having • the musical instruments of David, the man of God,' Neh. xii. 36; which is a mode of speaking paramount to their being ascribed to divine authority. The example of David need not have been alleged, if it had been a mere discretionary matter, and not the performance of a sacred duty.
* Period. Accounts of the Baptist Mission, vol. i. pp. 363, 364.
But admitting my position, you dispute the application of it to the case in hand; arguing, that we are allowed to retain some things which are ceremonial, though not obliged to use them as formerly; and instance in prostration, in certain times of worship, and certain garments. I do not know that prostration is ever made a part of instituted worship; it was a posture dictated by a humble spirit in all ages, and is still the same on various occasions. As to garments, we are allowed to use them in a mere civil way, as they were always used, but not as making any part of religious worship. We may wear a linen coat for coolness in summer, and a woollen one for warmth in winter; but if we make them any part of religion, we sin. Such reasoning would justify all the fripperies of modern superstition; most of which may be traced to jewish origin. The jews were obliged to worship at certain times, and we may worship at those times. We must worship at some time, and that time may happen to be the same as theirs; but we are not at liberty to choose those times which were then of divine appointment. If we do, an apostle will be afraid of us.' Gal. iv. 10, 11. Had you only affirmed, that what was obligatory on the jews is with us discretionary in civil concerns, I should have had no objection, no, not to instrumental music; but if you make them a part of worship, you throw open a door to a flood of corruption.
Of the tribe of Judah, Moses 'saith nothing concerning priesthood. From bence Paul inferred there was nothing. Of priests, altars, sacred garments, and instrumental music in christian worship, the new testament saith nothing.' Is it improper then to infer, that no such things were known in the times of the first christians ?
You perceive nothing in instrumental music contrary to the genius of the gospel. Another might say the same of dancing. But suppose you were to read in some ancient writer, that it was the custom of the primitive churches, when assembled together for worship, to sing with psalteries and harps, and cymbals and organs, and to dance like David before the ark. Would you not suspect the veracity of the writer, or conclude that he had been misinformed? Yet why should you, if there be nothing in these things contrary to the genius of the gospel ?
The new testament speaks of praising God by singing, but farther it says not. After supper they sang a hymn!