Here we are on the final Lord’s Day of October, the year of our Lord 2021, and God has been very good to us. We have received grace upon grace through the Lord Jesus and for that, we give thanks. As you know, we have been preaching on Exclusive Psalmody and have also talked about acapella singing in worship, and that is what we will concern ourselves with today, as it is the position the elders of this church believe that the Bible teaches. The position is simply that in the worship of God, we are to sing praises to God with our voices, and with our voices only, without instrumentation.
I said it last week and I’ll say it again here, because of the time and place in which we live, this is a very strange thing, to enter a church where the congregation sings with just their voices to the Lord. But why should that be the strange thing? Who says it’s a strange thing that a body of believers who love the Lord, lift up their voices to their Savior with glad, solemn, thankful, and joyful hearts? If our hearts are filled with contentedness in Christ, why would we need instrumentation to stir us to worship on the Lord’s Day? Frankly, there are many people who are dependent upon instrumentation to “set the mood” for them to be able to worship. That is a serious problem. Once again I remind you Church, what is considered strange or not strange in our society ought to have no part of how we understand and obey Scripture. I believe we always need to be reminded of that, because our hearts are prone to have such a pull toward the world, or just toward acceptance among a wider range of modern evangellyfish. I confess it is very frustrating to have professing believers on the conservative orthodox side of things look at you like you have a third eye, over things you see very clearly in the Scripture. We experienced some of that this past week at the Missouri Baptist Convention. But Church, as Christ is present with us here, while we have sung Psalms to Him with joy in our hearts, with just our voices, do you think Christ has thought we were strange? Or do you think it’s been a pleasing sound to Him? Or the Angels who presently observe our worship, do you think they think we are strange for singing with no instrumentation?
So allow me to begin with my thesis and then we’ll walk through the Bible to prove it:
Instrumentation in worship was instituted as Old Covenant ceremonial law. Old Covenant ceremonial worship has been abolished. There is no New Testament command to play instruments in worship. Therefore instrumentation is forbidden in New Covenant Worship.
Instrumentation in Worship was Instituted as Old Covenant Ceremonial Law
Instruments are only used in worship as God commands them
My first argument is this: instruments are only used in worship as God commands them. Meaning, when we look at the history and development of worship throughout the Bible, instruments were never used in worship, until God commanded them to be used. Instruments are of course made and used on various occasions, but these are occasions separate from the ceremonial worship of God. Numbers 10 is where we see God first command and thus introduce any instrument into worship.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. 3 And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 4 But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. 5 When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. 6 And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. 7 But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow a long blast, but you shall not sound an alarm. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 9 And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. 10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the Lord your God.” (Numbers 10:1-10)
Here is where God first commands instruments, and even here, the use they are given is restricted to specifics. They are given with specific instructions on when they are to be played and who is to play them. Not all of these are even normal patterns of worship, such as when they are to be blown as an alarm for battle. But there is also specific ceremonial uses given to these trumpets as we read they were also to be blown over certain feasts, offerings, and sacrifices. So this is where instruments are first given for worship by God, with specific instructions, and it stays this way until the time of David.
You might ask: what about Miriam after Israel crossed the Red Sea, didn’t she play a tambourine with dancing? Yes, the text shows us in Exodus 15 that after the people of Israel sang the song of Moses, Miriam the Prophetess took a tambourine and the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing as Miriam sang to the women. It is clear that this is not an example of worship or anything ordinary, but was a special circumstance of national celebration in a theocratic state. In fact we see women singing, dancing, and playing instruments on several occasions in the Bible, all of them being special circumstances of national celebration of victory, and not the worship of God. We see this in 1 Samuel 18 as David returns from slaying Goliath. This was a practice of the women in greeting their men as they returned home. We see it also with Jepthah’s daughter greeting him on his return home in Judges 11. We also see David doing this with the people in 2 Samuel 6, as the Ark is returned from the Philistines after losing it in battle. Again these are civic celebrations outside the worship of God, not part of their worship.
We could even go a step further in the case of Miriam, at least, and say that her use of the tambourine was special to her prophetic office. Scripture records occasions where prophets made use of instruments in their prophetic office. For example, in 1 Samuel 10, Samuel anoints Saul King and gives him instructions, and in these instructions we read in 1 Samuel 10:5…
5 After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim,[a] where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying.
So we see instruments used in connection with the prophetic office, in civic celebrations, and in various instances of everyday life in the Bible. But we do not see them used in the Worship of God, until God commands them. And then, they are used only as God commands them to be used, played by those God commanded to play them.
We now move on to instruments in the time of David. 1 Chronicles 23 begins a section of Scripture where David organizes temple worship and the duties of the Levites, the Levitical Priesthood.
When David was old and full of days, he made Solomon his son king over Israel.
2 David[a] assembled all the leaders of Israel and the priests and the Levites. 3 The Levites, thirty years old and upward, were numbered, and the total was 38,000 men. 4 “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said,[b] “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord, 6,000 shall be officers and judges, 5 4,000 gatekeepers, and 4,000 shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.” 6 And David organized them in divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. (1 Chronicles 23:1-6)
So who is charged with playing musical instruments in the worship of God? The Levitical Priests. Turn over to 1 Chronicles 25.
David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. The list of those who did the work and of their duties was: 2 Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asharelah, sons of Asaph, under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. 3 Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei,[a] Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to the Lord. 4 Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. 5 All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer, according to the promise of God to exalt him, for God had given Heman fourteen sons and three daughters. 6 They were all under the direction of their father in the music in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman were under the order of the king. 7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful, was 288. (1 Chronicles 25:1-7)
Once again, these are Levitical priests that were given the command to play instruments in worship. Instrumentation in the Worship of God belonged to the Levitical Priesthood. Playing of instruments in worship belonged to specific Levitical priests who were specifically set apart for the task. It was not something which just any Israelite who could play the harp was allowed to do in worship. Yes it was those who were skilled musicians, but it was the skilled musicians among the Levitical Priests.
There may be some who say, “Now wait a minute, this was David who organized this, this wasn’t a direct command from God.” But Church, do you remember what we read last week? It was in the passage that tells us about Hezekiah’s restoring of the worship of God.
25 And he stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David and of Gad the king’s seer and of Nathan the prophet, for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets. (2 Chronicles 29:25)
This shows us that when David instituted instruments and assigned them to the Levitical Priests that he did, it was not his preference or commandment of men, it was the command of God, that God spoke through David, who was His prophet.
All of this evidence shows us that instruments were not a circumstance of worship wherein there was liberty to use them how and when man saw fit; rather instruments were commanded, and thus were an element of worship. God commanded when they were to be played, how they were to be played, and who was to play them. The use of instruments in worship were regulated by the command of God and not subject to circumstantial wisdom.
Thus we see that instrumentation in worship was instituted as Old Covenant Ceremonial Law, given to the responsibility of the Levites.
Old Covenant Ceremonial Worship Has Been Abolished
This leads us to the second part of our thesis, and that is that Old Covenant Ceremonial Worship Has Been Abolished. The Old Covenant is done away with. The ceremonies for worship in the Old Covenant are done away with. The Levitical Priesthood is done away with, to whom the playing of instruments were given.
11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. (Hebrews 7:11-12)
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19)
22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. (Hebrews 7:22-24)
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. (Hebrews 7:27)
6 But as it is, Christ[b] has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:6-7;13)
We could go on and on, but it is clear that the work of Christ was to do away with the Old Regulations, and bring a better covenant. He did away with the old order of Priests, and has become our great High Priest. And as we read, “when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” Instruments in worship were given to the Levitical priesthood. The Levitical priesthood has been done away with. And when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. This means that all of the duties of the Levitical priests are done. They have ceased. They operate no more. We do not need the New Testament to list off every single one of their responsibilities for us to know that it is done away with. Their whole office and everything included therein is done. It is fulfilled in Christ.
Old Covenant Instruments were typological of New Covenant realities. With the substance here, the shadows do not remain.
Being that these Old Covenant regulations were shadows of the reality that has come, and that they are fulfilled in Christ, this means that instruments in old covenant worship were typological of New Covenant realities. This means it was never about the instruments, but about what they pointed toward. It also means that instruments were always meant to be temporary. Shadows of Christ in the Old Testament were necessarily temporary, awaiting the arrival of the substance, which is Christ.
A good question we may ask is “What are the New Covenant realities that instruments typified? How are instruments fulfilled in Christ?” In answering this question, we first have to humbly recognize that we don’t have to understand how Christ fulfills every aspect of instruments in worship for it to be true that old covenant lyre, harps, flutes, and horns find their fulfillment in Christ. That’s the first thing: it’s true whether we can understand it all or not. But we are given clues throughout the Bible. For example, the sound of the trumpet is often a symbol of proclamation or preaching. So when we sing about praising God with the sound of trumpet and horn in Psalm 98 or Psalm 150, I’m not thinking about a literal silver trumpet. I am thinking about the proclamation of the gospel. What I am singing is “praise God with the sound of preaching,” “praise God with the sound of the gospel.”
Church, I want to show you something that is rather amazing. Turn again back to 2 Chronicles 29, where King Hezekiah restores the service of the temple. As we read this, remember that this is the service of the temple being restored to what it was commanded to be as it says in verse 35. So what Hezekiah does here is what God commanded. Beginning in verse 20 Hezekiah has the priests make various sin offerings. Then beginning in verse 25 he stations the Levites who played instruments in their places. Then we read beginning in verse 27.
27 Then Hezekiah commanded that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song to the Lord began also, and the trumpets, accompanied by the instruments of David king of Israel. 28 The whole assembly worshiped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded. All this continued until the burnt offering was finished. 29 When the offering was finished, the king and all who were present with him bowed themselves and worshiped. 30 And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped. (2 Chronicles 29:27-30)
In other parts of Scripture, concerning Old Testament worship, we are not told when instruments were played. But we are told here how they were used and when they were played. In Old Covenant Worship, instruments were played during the sacrifice of the burnt offering. When the burnt offering began, the song to the LORD began along with the trumpets and accompanied by the instruments of David. So while the sacrifice is being made you have the whole assembly worshipping to the accompaniment of instruments. It says that all this continued until the burnt offering was finished. But then it says that after the burnt offering was finished, they sang more praises, but there instruments were done. So let me say it again: the instruments began when the sacrifice began, and the stopped when the sacrifice was finished. Church, the sacrifice is finished. It is done. The final sacrifice has been made. We reject the papal doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. Hebrews 9:25 tells us that Christ entered the Holy Place NOT to offer Himself repeatedly. Hebrews 9:28 tells us that Christ was offered ONCE to bear the sins of many. And that sacrifice has been made. It is done.
Think about the typology here. You realize the sacrifice of this animal in temple worship would not have been pretty. It would’ve been a process. Imagine the killing of the bull, it would’ve been noisy, the sound of the bull before He was slaughtered, the sound of the slaughtering, the cutting him up, it would have been a great mess. And here God provided instrumentation and song to cover the unpleasant nature of offering a sacrifice. He provided horns to announce it and strings to calm the assembly in the midst of it. Christ Himself is the final sacrifice for sin, it was a brutal sight and sound to behold, his being whipped, beaten, and nailed to a cross. But Christ offering Himself FOR US, is also the soothing sound of stringed instruments which make His sacrifice not only bearable to behold, but a reason to rejoice and be glad and sing His praises. The sound of the gospel that tells us Christ died to atone for our sins, is the accompaniment that allows us to behold Christ and Him Crucified with thankfulness and joy in the heart.
There is no New Testament Command to Play Instruments in Worship, and Thus Instrumentation is Forbidden
I almost feel like I can stop there, but I shall continue to the final part of my thesis. With all these things shown and considered, we find that there is no New Testament command to play instruments in Worship, and thus instrumentation is forbidden.
The New Testament commands us to sing, but it does not command us to sing with literal accompaniment, and it does not command us to play instruments in worship. With the Levitical priesthood abolished, and the final sacrifice made, the burden of proof is on the other side to show a positive New Testament command for instruments in worship, and it cannot be done. If there was a command for instrumentation in New Testament worship then it would be a sin to sing any songs acapella, and the little churches across the world and throughout history that don’t have instruments or don’t have anyone to play them would be sinning. But there is no such command. God has made New Covenant worship not about physical places and things, but about spirit and truth. It is simple and can be done anywhere.
However, it would be wrong to suggest the New Testament does not speak of instruments at all. In Ephesians 5:19 we are told to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord. What’s fascinating is that the Greek word that is translated into “make melody” means to pluck or pull strings, to play strings. So the New Testament tells us what kind of instruments we are to use when we sing, it is a spiritual instrument. We are to sing, plucking the strings of our heart to the Lord. The parallel passage in Colossians 3:16 says to sing with thankfulness in the heart, or the King James says, singing with grace in the heart. So the only commands to use instruments in New Testament worship is not physical instruments, but spiritual instruments. And by the way, I plan to preach a sermon next week on what it means to sing with grace in the heart, sort of as an appendix to the present series.
Never do we see an example of the Apostolic Church using instruments in worship.
Not only do we lack a command to play or use instruments in worship, but we also see no examples of the Apostolic Church using instruments in worship.
God Destroyed the Temple and all instruments contained therein.
The instruments of Old Covenant ceremonial worship belonged to the priesthood and the temple. We’ve seen how the priesthood has been done away with, but we also note, by prophecy and providence, that the temple has also been done away with, not only in word, but in deed. “Done away with” is too kind of words. Jesus condemned and pronounced prophetic judgment and destruction on the temple in places like Matthew 23 and 24. And so the temple was destroyed in 70AD and there was not one stone left upon another it was so thoroughly destroyed and judged by God. God Himself did away with the temple and all the worship that belonged to it therein. It was done away with by the atoning work of Christ, and then done away with by the providential judgement of God in the first century. The temple and all it contained, including the instruments, were destroyed by God. We must not go back. There is nothing left to return to.
As I did last week, I want to wrap up by taking a brisk walk through Church history to see what many of our fathers in the faith have said about this issue before us. Once again, I remind you, these are fallible men, and we do not appeal to a headcount to prove our case. I simply want to show, like Exclusive Psalmody, the position of acapella worship in the church, I would argue is an even larger portion of the church than Exclusive Psalmody even is. We are not strange and weird in the grand scheme of things thus far, this position is a long and widely held position of the church throughout the ages, and this is simply all I seek to show, while allowing us to hear from and gain wisdom from those who came before us.
The Word “Acapella”: First, it is fascinating to note that the word “acapella” was once used as a way of describing the way the church sang. Meaning something like “to sing in the style of the chapel.” You can see it in the spelling. Acapella singing is what the Church has been known for.
The Early Church
What about the early church? As far as I can tell instruments were simply not used in worship for several hundred years.
Justin Martyr (100-165): Justin Martyr in his book of Christian Questions and Answers 107, ‘It is not the custom of the Churches, to sing their meters with any such kind of instruments, etc. but their manner is to use plain song.’
TERTULLIAN (155-230 AD): “What trumpet of God is now heard – unless it is in the entertainment of the heretics?”
Chrysostom, 347-407: “He [David] had a lyre with lifeless strings, the church has a lyre with living strings. Our tongues are the strings of the lyre with a different tone indeed but much more in accordance with piety. Here there is no need for the cithara, or for stretched strings, or for the plectrum, or for art, or for any instrument; but, if you like, you may yourself become a cithara, mortifying the members of the flesh and making a full harmony of mind and body. For when the flesh no longer lusts against the Spirit, but has submitted to its orders and has been led at length into the best and most admirable path, then will you create a spiritual melody.”
Augustine of Hippo: “the name of Christ brought it to pass that harps should be banished out of this place. … Let none turn his heart to instruments …”-
The Council of Laodicea (367): forbids the use of musical instruments in worship.
In 416 the Council of Carthage addressed this issue and declared, “On the Lord’s day let all instruments of music be silenced.”
It seems instruments were introduced in worship in the middle ages, yet throughout we continue to see a witness in the church against the use of them.
“Sir John Hawkins, following the Romanish writers in his erudite work on the history of music, made Pope Vitalian, in A.D. 660, the first who introduced organs into the churches. But students of ecclesiastical archaeology are generally agreed that instrumental music was not used in churches till a much later date; for Thomas Aquinas [Catholic Scholar in 1250 A.D.] has these remarkable words, ‘Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may seem not to Judaize.’ – McClintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1894
What about the Reformers? Once again, a hallmark of the reformation was the throwing out of popish instrumentation, as they would’ve said, and singing with the voice only.
Calvin: “To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery,” says Calvin, “unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures, but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving.” He says again: “With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were yet tender and like children, by such rudiments until the coming of Christ. But now, when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time.” He further observes: “We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people as yet weak and rude in knowledge in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the gospel should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative and terminated with the gospel.”
Convinced by Calvin’s arguments, John Marbeck (1510-1585), former organist of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, wrote in 1550: “But when they haunt their holy assemblies, I think that musical instruments are no more meet for the setting forth of God’s praises, than if a man shall call again sensing and lames, and such other shadows of the law. Foolishly therefore have the Papists borrowed this and many other things of the Jews. Men that are given to outward pomps delight in such noise, but God liketh better the simplicity which he commendeth to us by his Apostle…”
The early Reformers, when they came out of Rome, removed them (instruments – ed.) as the monuments of idolatry. Luther called the organ an ensign of Baal; Calvin said that instrumental music was not fitter to be adopted into the Christian Church than the incense and the candlestick; Knox called the organ a kist [chest] of whistles. The Church of England revived them, against a very strong protest, and the English dissenters would not touch them. – Mcclintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1894, p. 762
Puritans and Others
What about the Puritans? You will be hard pressed to find any puritan or Westminster divine who promoted the use of musical instruments in worship. They were nearly all against their use. Likewise the Scottish Covenanters. The Synod of Dort and the Reformed Netherland Churches.
Charles Spurgeon said that, “(Musical instruments were) rejected and condemned by the whole army of Protestant divines.”
English Particular Baptists
What about the 17th Century English Particular Baptists who were behind the 1689 London Baptist Confession? With the issue of Exclusive Psalmody we saw that they were quite the mixed bag, what about instrumentation? The amazing thing is that while they held all different views on Psalmody, they were all united against the use of instruments in worship.
Andrew Fuller (a later baptist, a contemporary of Calvinistic Baptist William Carey): “The history of the church during the first three centuries affords many instances of primitive Christians engaging in singing, but no mention, (that I recollect) is made of instruments. (If my memory does not deceive me) it originated in the dark ages of popery, when almost every other superstition was introduced.”
John Gill, a Reformed Baptist who pastored at the same church before Spurgeon: ‘It is observed, that David’s psalms were sung formerly with musical instruments, as the harp, timbrel, and cymbal, and organs; and why not with these now? If these are to be disused, why not singing itself? I answer, these are not essential to singing, and so may be laid aside, and that continue; it was usual to burn incense at the time of prayer, typical of Christ’s mediation, and of the acceptance of prayer through it; that is now disused; but prayer being a moral duty, still remains: the above instruments were used only when the church was in its infant-state, and what is showy, gaudy, and pompous, are pleasing to children; and as an ancient writer observes, ‘these were fit for babes, but in the churches (under the gospel-dispensation, which is more manly) the use of these, fit for babes, is taken away, and bare or plain singing is left.’ As for organs…were first introduced by a pope of Rome, Vitalianus, and that in the seventh century, and not before.”
C.H. Spurgeon: “What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, bellows, and pipes. …Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her to learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes… We do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument is like the human voice.” In another place Spurgeon once said that he wishes all the organs of London would be filled with cement!
What about the early American Puritans? They were nearly all against instrumentation in worship as well.
John Cotton, Early American Puritan: “Instrumental music found in the ancient Jewish Temple is merely a type or shadow of the edifying and untheatrical singing with the heart and voice approved and practiced in the New Testament.”
The old school Southern Presbyterians of the 19th century such as Thornwell and R. L. Dabney were vehemently against the use of instrumentation in worship, and it is said that Dabney designed church buildings such that there was no entrance large enough for an organ to be brought in.
Question 6. Is there any authority for instrumental music in the worship of God under the present dispensation? Answer. Not the least, only the singing of psalms … was appointed by the apostles; not a syllable is said in the New Testament in favor of instrumental music nor was it ever introduced into the Church until after the eighth century, after the Catholics had corrupted the simplicity of the gospel by their carnal inventions. It was not allowed in the Synagogues, the parish churches of the Jews, but was confined to the Temple service and was abolished with the rites of that dispensation. – Questions on the Confession of Faith and Form of Government of The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), published by the Presbyterian Board of Publications, Philadelphia, PA (1842)
The Argument Really is Simple
Church, I hope you realize how simple the argument really is. Instruments were part of ceremonial law, ceremonial law has been abolished, and we have no New Testament commands to play instruments in worship. There is much more that we have said, but that is the simplicity of the argument. You don’t need to be a studied PHD scholar to understand it, and that should be comforting. It is an argument that our children can understand. It is simple for any of us to defend. We can defend it the same way we defend the end of the sacrificial system. You don’t have to go and study for hours to defend this. Each of you can walk out of here today able to give a sufficient defense of acapella worship. Here’s your elevator pitch: Instruments were part of ceremonial worship given to the office of the Levitical priests. Old Covenant ceremonies are abolished in Christ and there remains no New Testament command to continue with instruments.
Singing Acapella Reminds us that our Sins are Forgiven
So Church, when we come to worship each Lord’s Day, and the only musical sound that can be heard is the hearty singing of human voices to the Lord, it ought to be a sound of great gospel comfort, because the sound of just human voices singing praises to the Lord, is a sound that you hear when there is no sacrifice being made. It is the sound you hear when the sacrifice is complete. So each week when we hear only our voices lifted to God in Praise, it ought to remind us that our sins are forgiven. It ought to remind us that the work is complete. It ought to remind us that Christ has been offered once for all bearing the sins of the many. In this way, everything about congregation worship in the New Covenant reminds us that our sins are forgiven in Christ. We are reminded in our prayers, we are reminded by singing with just our voices, we are reminded in the preaching, and we are reminded in the taking of the Lord’s Supper. The sound of just our voices together reminds us that we are at peace with God in Christ. There remains no outward ceremony to fulfill, but only by faith beholding Christ and Him Crucified remains. Church, you can rest.
If you have not come to Jesus Christ in faith, there are no more ceremonies for you to do. It is by faith only that you must receive Him. I believe that the sound of Christian voices alone singing together, is a powerful institution which God uses in convicting the hearts of sinners. Amen.