One Hundredth Anniversary Of Religious Division

Warren F. Kenney

Could it be? Has it been 100 years already? If one lives his fourscore years (Psalm 90:10), you could still say it was only a little over a lifetime ago. The more perceptive among us had seen it coming for some time. In fact, they realized that it had already happened. It had begun much earlier. It started when men began to have less respect for a "Thus saith the Lord." When one begins to lose respect for that principle, the floodgates of error swing open more and more. Finally, you have a full-blown apostasy.

In 1906 - exactly one hundred years ago - the U.S. Religious Census recognized, for the first time, what many already knew existed. They recognized the fact that a chasm had developed between the Disciples of Christ and churches of Christ. The division had occurred over the use of mechanical instruments of music in Christian worship. J. W. Shepherd was commissioned to gather the statistics of those churches who did not use instruments of music or endorse the missionary societies. The "progressives" (Progress away from God is progress in the wrong direction.) claimed a membership of 982,701, and our brethren had only 149,658. We had 2,649 congregations to their 8,203. We were strongest in the southern part of this nation. Since we were without much strength and resources, we were the object of ridicule in religious circles, and, finally, the division was officially recognized by the U. S. government.

The discussion concerning music in worship was not new in the restoration movement, or in religion in general. It had been a matter of discussion since the early centuries of the Christian era. To be sure, it has been only in recent years that instrumental music has come to be a widespread practice in church worship. Of course, the early disciples knew nothing of such things, and there is no authority for them in the New Testament if authority were sought. This comparatively new practice has become so universal in some religious groups that many persons would be surprised to know that there are religious people who do not use musical instruments in their worship. John Girardeau, a former professor in the Presbyterian Columbia Theological Seminary in South Carolina says, "It has been thus proved, by an appeal to historical facts, that the church, although lapsing more and more into defection from the truth and into a corruption of apostolic practice, had no instrumental music for twelve hundred years; and that the Calvinistic Reformed Church ejected it from its services as an element of Popery, even the Church of England having come very nigh to its extrusion from her worship ... It is heresy in the sphere of worship." (Instrumental Music in Public Worship, p. 179)

Now, during this anniversary year, many of our brethren are planning forums in which an apology will be made to those who use the mechanical instrument. As I understand it, this will be done in an attempt to reunite those who divided a century ago. We must be wary of such efforts. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves "united" outside the will of God.

These are the 10 passages in the New Testament pertaining to music in worship: Matthew 26:30, "And when they had sung a hymn ..." Mark 14:26, "And when they had sung a hymn ..." Acts 16:25, "... praying and singing hymns to God ..." Romans 15:9, "... and sing to Your name." 1 Corinthians 14:15, "... I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding." Ephesians 5:19, "... singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" Colossians 3:16, "... singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Hebrews 2:12, "... I will sing praise to You." Hebrews 13:15, "... the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name." James 5:13, "... Let him sing praise."

This is the totality of Christ's law on this subject. Is it not significant that vocal music is the kind of music God specified in each of these passages? How could anything be any plainer? As was the case 100 years ago, so it is now. We must respect a "Thus saith the Lord." On that and only on that can we have true unity.

Apostasy is knocking at our door. It is dressed in the finest garb of religious compromise. Let's not invite it in! -90 Waverly Court, Martinsburg, WV 25401.


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