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Frank Jamerson

   The book—”Old Light on New Worship,” by John Price,  preacher for the Grace Baptist Church in Rochester, N.Y., since 1995, discusses the issue of whether instrumental music helps or hurts spiritual worship.

   Mr. Price said, “From 1880 to 1920, many churches were adversely affected by the concert ambitions of choirs and quartets who were more interested in performance than worship. William Rice writes, ‘Many large congregations listened each Sunday to the operatic effusions of a well-paid quartet whose concern for worship was often negligible. Others listened to equally operatic, but less efficient quartet choirs. Smaller congregations did their best to fall into line, using whatever talents were at hand. Choirs, where they existed, were often used for the display of talent, temperament, and jealousies—often all to the detriment of the church’.” (p. 142).

   He said that in the 1950s and 60s, the western world was shocked by the rapid popular success of rock-and-roll music among young people. Many instruments that had rarely, if ever, been used in worship before, such a the guitar, drums, saxophone, etc. began to find acceptance in many churches. With the development of technology, the electronic keyboard and synthesizer, along with amplification, were also added. By the end of the 20th century, the entire ethos of the world had found its way into the church through music. In many worship services today, little difference can be found between a rock-and-roll concert and the music of the church” (p. 143).

   Mr. Price said that with many: “What God desires in His worship is hardly a consideration. What appeals to man and what makes him feel comfortable in church is the theme of countless books on worship. The increasing use of musical instruments and the sensuality of modern worship is a manifestation of this man-centeredness. This is what our Reformed brethren from the past are crying out to us about. The Reformers, the Puritans, and others since have seen the connection between the use of musical instruments and the sensuality of false worship” (p. 147).

   Mr. Price continued: “As we look back over the entire history of the church, the evidence rejecting the use of musical instruments in New Testament worship is overwhelming. For hundreds of years before the coming of Christ, the Jewish synagogues, from which the apostolic church derived its worship, knew nothing of musical instruments. For 1300 years after the apostles, the vast majority of the church continued to deny their use. It was only during the dark ages of Roman Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries that we find the rise of musical instruments in the worship of the church. The Church Fathers, the Reformers, the English and American Puritans, the Scottish, Irish, and American Presbyterians, and many of the most prominent theologians since have all declared that musical instruments are to have no part in Christian worship” (p. 144).

   Mr. Price asked: “What is the source of this pressure on our generation to have musical instruments? It does not come from the New Testament Scripture, and it certainly does not come from church history. One is left to suspect that the real source of this pressure is from the world and from a modern church that has embraced so much of the world with little regard for God’s rights in His worship” (p. 151).

   Mr. Price concluded: “The powerful impact of music upon the human emotions has a direct bearing upon hymnody in the church. It is in this subtle and seductive power of music that lies its greatest danger to the intelligent worship of the gospel, which is ’in spirit and truth.’

   In Christian worship, all things are to be done to edification, and our singing must engage all the faculties of the mind. As the apostle says, ’Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God’ (Col. 3:16), and ’I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also’ (1 Cor. 14:15). It is true that the emotions must be involved in worship, but it must be truth in the mind that leads the emotions” (p. 157).


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