EDITORIAL — Moses E. Lard and Innovations

By Cecil Willis

One of my favorite writers of the Restoration period is Moses E. Lard. What he had to say, he said with “punch” in it. Whatever he felt, he felt strongly. And what he felt strongly, he said strongly. It has always been difficult for me to understand how one of the most brilliant minds produced during that glorious period could so strongly oppose instrumental music in worship, and yet so stoutly defend missionary societies. I guess he had a little of whatever makes Reuel Lemmons “tick” in him also.

A few nights ago, I was reading from Lard and ran across the following interesting quotations. I have put the captions on the quotes.

On Becoming an Apostate

“As a people we have from the first and continually to the present proclaimed that the New Testament and that alone is our only full and perfect rule of faith and practice. We have declared a thousand times and more that whatever it does not teach we must not hold, and whatever it does not sanction we must not practice. He who ignores or repudiates these principles, whether he be preacher or layman, has by the fact become an apostate from our ranks; and the sooner he lifts his hand high, avows the fact, and goes out from amongst us the better, yes, verily, the better for us.”

The Cure for Innovations

One of the issues of Lards day was that of injecting mechanical instrumental music into the worship. Lard said: “The day on which a church sets up an organ in its house, is the day on which it reaches the first station on the road to apostasy. From this it will soon proceed to other innovations; and the work of innovating once fairly commenced no stop can be put to it till ruin ensues.”

But some of the churches of Lards day were beginning to install organs in their meeting houses. Lard said: “But what shall be done with such churches? Of course nothing. If they see fit to mortify the feelings of their brethren, to forsake the example of the primitive churches, to condemn the authority of Christ by resorting to will worship, to excite dissension, and give rise to general scandal, they must do it. As a body we can do nothing. Still we have three partial remedies left us to which we should at once resort. 1. Let every preacher in our ranks resolve at once that he will never, under any circumstances or on any account, enter a meeting house belonging to our brethren in which an organ stands. We beg and entreat our preaching brethren to adopt this as an unalterable rule of conduct. This and like evils must be checked, and the very speediest way to effect it is the one here suggested. 2. Let no brother who takes a Letter from one church ever unite with another using an organ. Rather let him lives out of a church than go into such a den. 3. Let those brethren who oppose the introduction of an organ first remonstrate in gentle, kind, but decided terms. If their remonstrance is unheeded, and the organ brought in, then let them at once, and without even the formality of asking for a Letter, abandon the church so acting; and let ail such members unite elsewhere. Thus these organ grinding churches will in the lapse of time be broken down, or wholly apostatize, and the sooner they are in fragments the better for the cause of Christ. I have no sympathy with them, no fellowship for them, and so help me God never intend knowingly to put my foot into one of them.”

The March of Sin

Speaking regarding the progression of sin, Lard said: “Apostasies begin with things that have no harm in them and end in ruin. At first they creep, but in the end stride continents at a single step. Finally we say watch, beware!”

On Dancing “Christians”

Lard discussed dancing and instrumental music in the same article. Apparently it was true then, as now, that doctrinal defection inevitably led to moral compromise. Lard said:

“Let those who urge it first show that there is no harm in dancing before they ask us to acquiesce. Let them either show where it has the sanction of Christ or the apostles, or was practiced in some primitive church; or else let them forever cease to urge this plea, and abandon the practice. The church never parts from aught but trouble when it parts from such members. If they can be reclaimed and saved by all just means let this be done; but the church should not compromise, not for one day, with dancing. Let its action be kind but firm, and terribly prompt. This alone will save. Of all the unsanctioned acts a church has to deal with, none demands prompter treatment than dancing. It is one of those specious and insidious evils which must be cured in its very inception, or it is never cured. Tolerate it, and by and by those who advocate it will claim the right by prescription to engage in it. Remonstrance is vain then. Our churches should lift a unanimous voice against it, and proceed to rid themselves of it with energy and a promptitude which would leave not a vestige of it in Zion. Let the world know, but especially let professors know, that it must be completely and forever abandoned. A stand like this once taken and maintained with dignity and firmness, and the evil is soon cured. But as long as the shilly-shallying course of some of our churches is persisted in, dancing will increase in them until it ultimately becomes the rule; then the result is clear. Attempt to correct it now and dancing will exclude the church, and not the church dancing… I never knew a dancing Christian on his dying bed to send for a dancer to comfort him, nor a fiddle, called for in the chamber where death completes his work. Let no Christian think that he can scandalize the church of God with the evils of which we are speaking and stand approved in the judgment day…. The churches of Christ in the whole land owe it to themselves, and to the high and just ground they have taken, to guard with Sleepless vigilance against even the semblance of an innovation on the practice and usages of the apostolic churches.” (Lards Quarterly, 1864, Vol. 1, p. 330)

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 44, pp. 3-5
September 14, 1972