“PRAISE him with stringed instruments and organs.”
Will Elder Ker give his views upon the subject of having organs in gospel churches?
Scotsville, Nova Scotia.
We quote the above Scripture as a basis of such remarks as we may be enabled to make concerning the request of brother McKay. We want to be sincere in all that we do, and withhold nothing that we may have from those who want to know the truth and order of God’s house.
Doubtless, in the minds of some, the text above mentioned would establish their idea of having musical instruments in the house of God. Such was the case in olden times, therefore such Scripture is recorded. But the house of God that had instruments of music in it was the house which was made “a den of thieves “by those who worshiped with such things, but knew nothing of worship in spirit and in truth. That people could not sing one of the Lord’s songs in a strange land, neither could they use their harps outside of their own country, because their worship was to be performed there.
When God commanded Moses to make the tabernacle in the wilderness, he told him to make all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount. That tabernacle was constructed in sections, convenient for the time that then was; it was put up and taken down as the Lord commanded; its stakes were often removed and its cords often broken. That tabernacle was not the spiritual house of God, but “a worldly sanctuary.” It had its own peculiar furniture, and in it God was worshiped in the burning of incense; in it the blood of beasts was offered by the high priest, once a year, for the sins of Israel. After this, David desired to build an house for the Lord, but could not because he was a man of war, but Solomon, David’s son, built an house to the Lord. The house was magnificent; that temple, its furniture and instruments of music all filled their place as shadows of better things to come. Therefore that house was not the spiritual house of God, neither was the worship in it spiritual. The temple Solomon built was the pride of Israel, but the time came when they went into captivity, and their beautiful house with all its instruments of music was destroyed; thus was shown that that house, like the tabernacle in the wilderness, was not to abide; it was rebuilt, however, by Zerubbabel, but at last was destroyed in the final destruction of Jerusalem, never to be rebuilt again, because in Christ all types and shadows are fulfilled. And now instead of the tabernacle Moses made, or the house Solomon built, or the house rebuilt by Zerubbabel, we have the spiritual house of God, built by our antitypical Solomon and Zerubbabel, the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the rock (revelation), “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Our High Priest does not enter into the tabernacle, made with hands, once a year to offer for our sins, but he has entered heaven itself, not with the blood of goats and calves, which could never take away sin, but by his own blood, “having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
The spiritual house of God is not built of such material as was used by Moses and Solomon, which required the work of men’s hands, but it is built of “lively stones,” (men and women) “for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
As the temple, under the law, was a figure, it was right and according to that law to have musical instruments in the church which then was. But “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” The law therefore of this dispensation demands no such things as were commanded and observed under the old covenant.
The text at the head of this article was in place, literally, as a commandment of the old covenant. The worship of God in the temple was not complete without instruments of music, but let us remember that all such things were destroyed with the temple in the destruction of Jerusalem.
The church of God now would be as justifiable in building altars and offering sacrifices to God, or in establishing a priesthood of men, or in burning incense, or in adopting any other form or ceremony of the old covenant, as it would be to put into service stringed instruments and organs, and call them a part of our worship or a help in any sense of the word.
The harmonious strains of musical instruments in the temple, under the old covenant, were only a figure of the prayers, and praises of thanksgiving of the spiritual stones. These all sing the same song in perfect harmony of voices, saying, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”
The nations round about could not enter into the worship with Israel under the law, neither can the unregenerate now enter into the spiritual worship of God, or learn the new song.
Some say the children of Old Baptist parents go elsewhere to preaching because there is nothing to attract them to Old Baptist meetings, and to counteract this let us have organs in our churches and train our children to sing; this will make it interesting for them. The idea that organs in our churches would attract our children and young people, and thereby give us larger congregations and help to increase our membership, is but a notion of the natural mind; this is conclusive, since everything pertaining to it is natural. If this be the kind of interest it requires to bring them in, would it not be better for the church to have them remain outside! In the training and culture of our children, we should take them with us to meeting, beginning in their infancy and continue to take them while they are under our care. This cannot make them the children of God or cause them to love his doctrine, but it will cause them to respect the house of God and also the religion of their parents. If a child, even though grown to manhood or womanhood, respects its parents as it should, it will go occasionally to hear the doctrine they love, even though for the child there is nothing of interest in it. In this, we are glad to say, we speak from experience as well as from observation.
If Christ, the truth, the life and the way, who is preached, is not the attraction which brings men and women into the church membership, it is better off without them. Is God as able now to add to the church such as shall be saved, as he was in the days of the apostles? If so, why not trust in him! believing that every plant must be planted by him, and that he waters them every moment lest any hurt them. Surely every plant that he “hath not planted, shall be rooted op.” Do, brethren, let us be consistent, and not attempt to remove the ancient landmarks, but let us “ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein.” O the pride of the heart of man to desire largo congregations to preach to; if we should think for a moment we would know that unless the Lord brings them in prepared to hear, we had as well talk to as many trees in the forest.
Naomi was a beautiful figure of the church, and Ruth was a perfect figure of all who are brought to love the church of God. Naomi told Ruth that there was nothing to be gained in following her, she was poor, had no sons, was a widow empty and desolate, she had no stringed instruments or organs to attract her, and that if she followed her she could only expect poverty and affliction. This did not turn Ruth away, but instead, her devotion for Naomi caused her to say, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Thus is the work of God made manifest. (Moses was likewise blessed: he was made to forsake all the riches and advantages of Egypt to suffer affliction with the people of God.) Such was not the case with Orpah, she did not follow Naomi when she learned there was no attraction, nothing to be gained by going with her; no stringed instruments, no organs, no trained choirs where she could make a display of her knowledge and ability. We rather think Naomi was better off without her; what do you think? If you agree with us, then you must also acknowledge that the church of God is better off without those who are brought in by the attraction of the organ.
May the dear Lord enable us to look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities; here we shall see a quiet habitation, here we shall see our High Priest, his table spread with his flesh and his blood. Under the law, if a man ate of the flesh of the sin-offering or drank of its blood, that man should be put to death, but now Jesus, the great sin-offering, says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” When we look upon Zion we do not see, or hear the sound of the organ or stringed instruments; the attraction there is the “glorious Lord,” who is “unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, [creature works] neither shall gallant ship [worldly attraction] pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King; he will save us.”
The apostles entered into these glorious and spiritual things, hence we find no example or authority in the New Testament for instrumental music in the church of God. Without a “thus saith the Lord,” we could as well adopt any other notion or idea of man and establish it in the house of God, as we could the organ.
If we abide in the apostles’ fellowship we must abide also in their doctrine and practice; to forfeit one means to forfeit all. Therefore if the church should institute the organ, sooner or later it would be swallowed up with error; then wherein would we differ from the nations round about?
Our heritage here is affliction, poverty, persecution, hated of all men for Christ’s sake, a little flock, our name cast out as evil, not reckoned among the nations of the earth, a peculiar people, doubts, fears, temptations. But the promise is that we shall at last come off more than conquerors, through him that loved us and gave himself for us.
If we could, by changing the order of the apostolic church, become like other people, where would we find evidence that we are the church of God, children of the heavenly King?
In our thoughts of trying to steady the ark, let us not forget the experience of Uzzah, who met death in attempting to help the Lord. May the Lord enable us to worship him in spirit and in truth, and to be satisfied with the goodness of his house.
We are glad to say that in our eastern associations the subject of having an organ has not been mentioned by any church. May God keep us in the faith, and show others who have been overtaken in the fault, their error.
The church is not to sing now ”with stringed instruments and organs,” but with the spirit and with the understanding also. K.
Editorial – Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74, No. 5
March 1, 1906