Evolution of Defense for Instrumental Music

By Ron Halbrook

During the first half of the 1800’s, the work of restoring New Testament Christianity in America grew and prospered. But in the decades following the War Between the States, the ship of Zion floundered on, the sandbar of apostasy. The rise of liberal attitudes toward Bible authority resulted in an effort to centralize the work of churches through human institutions and in an effort to modernize the worship by using instrumental music. After a few observations, this article will trace several stages in the defense of and debate over instrumental music in worship.

The arguments evolved in the introduction and defense of instrumental music, in practical effect, nullify the Bible plea for adherence to the inspired standard of truth in all things. The all-sufficiency and unity in truth, coupled with an abhorrence of human traditions, are reflected in Thomas Campbell’s famous maxim of 1809: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where the Bible is silent, we are Silent” (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 1:10; Jn. 17:20-21; Matt. 15:7-8). When one man objected that such a plea would preclude the precious tradition of infant baptism, Campbell, himself a paedo-Baptist at the time, replied, “Of course, if infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it.”(1) By the same token, Jesus dared not pretend to be a priest under the Old Law because He was of Judah, “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:14). God’s specific approbation of a given thing in a class of things serves as a specific prohibition of all others. “Wherefore, Divine revelation gives bounds, positively and negatively, unto the worship of God.”(2)Arguing, “Either there is a divinely authorized order of Christian worship . . . or there is not, ” Alexander Campbell reduced the no-pattern position to an absurdity which precludes “no disorder, no error, no innovation, no transgression. ” Since he believed that “our whole religion, objectively and doctrinally considered, is founded in a book,”(3) he believed that the action of worship is limited to positive divine revelation in the Bible. Noting that religious dances, harps, psalteries, and trumpets are not once named in the New Testament, he condemned them and dismissed them for “all spiritually minded Christians” as useless “as a cow bell in a concert.”(4)

The instrumental music controversy was protracted and heated because the new practice compromised the restoration plea. The instrument was but a straw in the wind, evidence of a drift away from strict dedication to the imperatives of Christ in Scripture. Oft the desire for instruments in worship was accompanied by polite excuses for social dancing, so that the two are discussed jointly.(5) Many of the churches which became broad-minded about such practices also became breeding grounds for the modernism of the late 1800’s with its compromises on the verbal inspiration of Scripture, the necessity of immersion, the reality of Bible miracles, evolutionary philosophy, and cooperation with denominationalism. Moses Lard had warned in 1864 that since the instrument is without “affirmative or positive sanction” in the New Testament, a church which “sets up an organ in its house . . . reaches the first station on the road to apostasy.” Drawing from the experience of other religious bodies which introduced entertainments in worship, C.L. Loos warned that “the progress is onward, or rather, downward.”(6) This analysis was confirmed some twenty years later when David Lipscomb decried the rationalism and infidelity which had followed in the trail of earlier innovations – “one innovation but prepares for a dozen others to follow.” In effect, a church which adds the instrument “rejects God that he should reign over them.” Though the organ is small from a human standpoint, “it tests our willingness or unwillingness to abide in the appointments of the Lord.”(7)

The evolution of defense for instrumental music is the story of debate and division. The instrument gained ground first in larger Northern cities, in larger established churches, among the affluent and socially prominent. Benjamin Franklin estimated in 1868 that about 50 out of 10,000 churches used an instrument, but by the century’s end the proportions were nearly reversed. By then, a number of differences could be seen between the two groups, but the instrument continued to serve in debate as a test case which reflected the rationale for all the other differences. The rise and history of the instrument’s defense among brethren did not occur in a vacuum. The practice and major arguments for it were borrowed from denominationalism. A wide range of arguments was available from the start, though various ones attained more or less prominence from time to time. Proponents strained their ingenuity in adapting and using a proliferation of rationalizations, a process occurring only after the desire for the instrument had arisen. It is not the case that godly, humble saints pouring over the Bible at long last concluded that an element of New Testament faith or practice had been overlooked, and thus demanded the instrument and defended it at the price of division. The basic desire was to keep up with the denominations.

First Signs of Trouble: Early Introduction and Defense (1850-66)

Early in 1851, J. Henshall was asked by a man who said “we are far in the rear of Protestants” whether “instrumental music in our churches” would consummate “the great object of Psalmody.” He replied that the worldly minded might seek such “helps to their devotion,” but true spiritual worship had no place for an entertaining display, a choir, and “a wooden devotion quickener.” This opened discussion in the Ecclesiastic Reformer for a short time. John Rogers, in astonishment that any preacher would defend the instrument, wrote to Alexander Campbell, who called upon all preachers to “cry aloud and spare not” in opposing the practice. Campbell shortly added that “the argument drawn from the Psalms in favor of instrumental music” befits Catholic and Protestant churches which seek “the Jewish pattern of things” to stir their carnal hearts.(8) The 1850s saw precious little advance in the instrument cause; almost no one favored it. “It is scarcely necessary for us to say to our readers that we regard the organ and violin worship, and even the fashionable choir singing of our country, as mockery of all that is sacred,” said Tolbert Fanning in the 1856 Gospel Advocate.(9) The next flare-up revealed that fifty years after Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address (1809), Dr. L. L. Pinkerton had placed a melodeon in the church at Midway, Kentucky. Answering a question in January 1860, Benjamin Franklin mused that a church without the Spirit of Christ might need an instrument for amusement and entertainment in place of religion and worship. This stung Pinkerton because he was the only church known to be using one. Offering the aid argument, he said the singing had been so bad as to “scare even the rats from worship.” Practice sessions with its use had been followed by use in regular worship.(10)

The aid or expediency argument was to play a major role. A large segment of brethren granted that instruments fell into the realm of expediency but felt they were inexpedient. Isaac Errett pled for better singing in 1861 but regarded the instrument as not expedient, as hindering congregational participation and emphasizing artistic performance. In 1864, W.K. Pendleton was asked about the “Pew-Renting and Organ-Music” appearing in a few churches. He warned that such things represented the spirit of “monied nabobs” and were inexpedient because interfering with the “free, full, grateful, heartfelt singing of the whole congregation.”(11)

Many other brethren believed that expediency was not the basic issue since God specified singing, which is a specific in the generic class of music. In an 1864 exchange on a different subject, Thomas Munnell argued from the “absence of any Scripture condemnation” and J.W. McGarvey answered that the restoration plea – “the Bible alone” -confines men “to what is taught in the Bible . . . . the omission of anything from scripture teaching is sufficient to justify us in objecting to it as religious doctrine.”(12) These divergent positions were to play a major role in the instrument controversy. Observing that the earlier “unanimity in the rejection of instrumental music from our public worship” was beginning to erode, McGarvey called in 1864 for a fresh and thorough study of the subject. He noted that its defense was being made (1) the Jewish temple worship, (2) John’s vision of heaven with angels harping, (3) the silence of the New Testament, and (4) the aid argument. But McGarvey called for positive authority from the New Testament for every element of worship “in the Christian dispensation.” Only by express revelation can we know “what acts of worship are acceptable to God.” Vocal music is specifically authorized (which permits the use of singing aids such as song books), but instrumental music introduces another “chief element in the joyful sound” of worship.

To introduce any such element is unscriptural and presumptuous. It is will worship, if any such thing as will worship can exist. On this ground we condemn the burning of incense, the lighting of candles, the wearing of priestly robes, and the reading of printed prayers. On the same ground we condemn instrumental music.

Thus McGarvey argued that the New Testament positively authorized singing and is silent about playing instruments -presumptive proof against the latter practice. A.S. Hayden immediately answered that McGarvey must produce “affirmative proof” (i.e. direct statements) condemning instruments, and added that the instrument antedated Moses’ Law and so did not pass away with it. McGarvey’s response pointed out that the Law of Moses included instruments by specific mention and that the burden of proof for their introduction in the gospel age requires similar specific, affirmative statements of revelation. The exchange ended with Hayden claiming the Jews were not required to use instruments in worship and it is only a matter of liberty today, and McGarvey countering that specific revelation in Moses’ Law made the practice both a privilege and a duty whereas its omission from the New Testament condemns the practice today.(13) The lines of battle were now set.

The Middle Years Debate and Division (1866-1906)

The defeat of those who granted that the instrument was an expediency issue and who opposed it on inexpediency was doomed to fail as soon as enough brethren were swayed by the times to desire instruments in music. Other forces than the instrument controversy were at work. For instance, in a major address defending missionary societies in 1866, Pendleton, respected editor of the Millennial Harbinger, came out with sweeping denial of the established concept of taking “the silence of Scripture on a given subject as a positive rule of prohibition.” Instead, silence means liberty.(14) Likewise, in 1868 A.S. Hayden renewed under the banner of “Expediency Progress,” his protest against any argument from silence in the Bible by brethren opposing instruments. A worried McGarvey retorted that the instrument issue “is becoming a serious one” and the kind of “progress” which promotes such practices “finds in me an enemy.” There must be total war “against everything not expressly or by necessary implication authorized in the New Testament.” Hayden then claimed that he was not promoting the instrument but only opposing those who treat the question as “a subject matter of the faith” rather than one of expediency.(15) I.B. Grubbs next engaged Hayden that year on the same ground of battle, each man writing two articles. Then it was Grubbs and J. S. Lamar, Lamar claiming that Psalm 87 predicts instruments in New Testament worship (as an expedient or nonessential), Grubbs replying that his interpretation is fanciful and the New Testament itself is the all-sufficient rule. Other writers joined the discussion, adding nothing new, and Pendleton tried unsuccessfully to close the debate. He was frustrated on one side by those who shared his expediency concept but would not take his word that the organ was inexpedient and, on the other side, by those who shared his opposition to instruments but opposed them on grounds of principle. In the years which followed, the silence-means-liberty argument couple with the desire for instruments trampled under foot Pendleton’s attempt to keep them out as inexpedient. Through about 1885 several well-known preachers such as McGarvey, Robret Graham, and Moses E. Lard tried to oppose the instrument on principle but accept the missionary societies as expedients. This compromise also drew fire from both sides and utterly failed, sweeping the churches which followed it into the instrument cause. In the long run, only those brethren who consistently applied the restoration principle to exclude both the society and organ could preserve the New Testament pattern of worship.

In the early years of debate, three basic positions had emerged, which were to be repeated and adapted in the years ahead. They are (1) There are passages which specify that the instrument is authorized. (2) No passage specifies that the instrument is authorized, but it may be considered on grounds of expediency. (3) There are passages which specify singing but none which specify the instrument; the revelation which prescribes one proscribes the other. During 1868-69, the Christian Standard published exchanges between H.T. Anderson, who argued there is no law against organs and therefore expediency applies, and Robert Richardson, who answered that expediency must be first within bounds of law. He explained that Paul was under law to Christ and that all expediencies must be proven lawful (1 Cor. 9:21; 6:12).

Law prescribes the things that may be done. Expediency selects from among them what is most suitable in a given case. Hence, expediency must always occupy a place within and under law, and in no case can go beyond or contrary to law.

This (the instrument, RH) can never be a question of expediency, for the simple reason that there is not law prescribing or authorizing it. If it were any where said, in the New Testament, that Christians should use instruments, then it would become a question of expediency what kind of instrument was to be used, whether an organ or a melodian, the “loud-sounding cymbals,” or the “light guitar;” whether it should cost $50, or $500, or $1,000; and what circumstances should regulate the performance. It happens, however, that this is no where said; and, consequently, no such questions of expediency can ever arise in a church that is truly and really governed by the law of the Lord.

When someone attempted to show that instruments were “implied in the word psalms” (as in Eph. 5:19), Richardson commended the effort to find Bible authority, which would open the way to discuss expediencies. But Richardson rebuffed the attempt because instruments cannot fulfill the demands of the law to speak and teach in psalms and because it is perfectly well known that instruments were added to Christian worship several hundreds of years after the New Testament period. He concluded that the demands of Scripture did not produce instruments in worship but the desire for instruments demanded “plausibilities” to justify the innovation.(16)

Isaac Errett, editor of the Christian Standard, advised against using organs because he knew they caused division, but he battled those who opposed instruments on principle. He claimed their use resulted from poor singing in the churches and from advanced musical culture in the homes, but denied that any vital principle of truth was involved. But J. W. McGarvey said that using a musical instrument is not a method of singing so is not authorized as an aid or expediency under the command to sing; he denied that organs represented true growth or progress. “True progress is still backward – backward toward the apostles, toward the doctrine, the terms of pardon, the worship and the discipline which they instituted.”(17) An exchange between Errett in the Standard and antagonists in the Apostolic Times occurred in 1870. After J.B. Briney went over to the instrument cause, he and McGarvey debated in the Times during 1881.

From time to time, proponents of the instruments attempted to prove that it inheres in psallo, from which is translated “speaking . . . in psalms . . . singing and making melody in your heart” (Eph. 5:19). About 1866-67, an exchange appeared in one periodical, with one man claiming the term in the New Testament meant worshipping with musical instruments accompanied by singing and the other saying the term in the New Testament meant praising God with the voice in song. It was discussed again in 1869. George P. Slade in the 1878 American Christian Review attacked McGarvey’s ground of New Testament silence by appealing to psallo. Having examined this approach for many years, McGarvey said in 1895 that anyone taking it “is one of those smatterers in Greek who can believe anything that he wishes to believe. When the wish is father to the thought correct exegesis is like water on a duck’s back.” Such strictures did not keep Briney from resorting to the argument again a decade later.(18)

During the 1880s, an argument circulated which claimed that the organ may be used as an aid to singing without being considered “in the worship” because the worship takes place altogether in the heart. McGarvey countered that the Bible speaks of ceremonial washings of persons, cups, pots, and brazen vessels, and of many other outward actions as being in the worship (Mk. 7:3, 7; Col. 2:20-23). Even the Psalms speak of praising God in worship with the sounds of instruments. “To deny, then, that the present use of instrumental music in the church is a part of the worship, is a subterfuge and an afterthought ingeniously against vain worship and will worship.”(19)

All the pros and cons were reiterated in public debates. Clark Braden used the aid argument in meeting Joe S. Warlick in Dallas, Texas, about 1896. The Hall L. Calhoun-M.C. Kurfees exchange in the 8 and 15 1900 Gospel Advocate was distributed in booklet form the next year, with Calhoun claiming the instrument as an aid was not in the worship. He later gave up the organ and its defense. J. Carroll Stark in a November 1903 debate with Warlick at Henderson, Tennessee, appealed to the Old Testament and psallo. In the J. D. Tant-W. J. Frost debate (printed 1904), Frost used the Old Testament, angels of heaven, and aid arguments, adding that the warning against transgression in 2 John 9 applied only to the Deity of Jesus and not to His teachings.(20)

The process of debate and division over the instrument, other innovations, and the underlying issue of Bible authority continued throughout the period of 1866-1906. As early as March 1864, Moses Lard called upon brethren to abandon churches which trampled upon the authority of Christ by introducing instruments. In church after church, the organ was pushed in over the protests of brethren whose only option was to leave, as McGarvey was forced to leave his beloved Broadway in Lexington, Kentucky in 1902. Before making the switch to organ defense, J.B. Briney wrote in 1870 that the choice was between the organ or the gospel and concluded concerning the man who took the organ, “Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.” But McGarvey, F.G. Allen, and others lost their influence in opposing instruments because they were “inconsistent in hobnobbing” with those who used them, as James A. Harding said. McGarvey admitted this with regret about the time he was forced out of Broadway.(21) Only those who both regarded the organ as an imposition upon the authority of Christ and marked and avoided brethren who accepted the divisive innovation upon apostolic doctrine, could ultimately keep the organ out. The U.S. Census Bureau finally recognized in 1906 that final division had occurred.

Subsequent Developments Not a Dead Issue (1906-1980)

Debates and division over the organ quees ion and the deeper issue of Biblical authority continue to today. Literally scores of debates have been held to study these matters. For instance, R.O. Rogers met W.W. Otey at Portland, Indiana, in 1909, claiming the instruments wer commanded in 1 Corinthiansd 14:7-8 but they are optional expedients. Otey protested that a practice cannot be both commanded and optional, and 1 Corinthians 14:7-8 says nothing of instruments in worship. Otey and Briney debated in Louisville, Kentucky in 1908, with Otey affirming the instrument “is opposed to New Testament teaching and sinful.” Briney replying the Bible does not forbid organs and they are allowed by psallo. An exchange by M.D. Clubb and H. Leo Boles appeared jointly in the Christian-Evangelist and Gospel Advocate, the whole being printed as a book in 1927. The usual arguments were made. G.C. Brewer answered a tract by Homer Strong about 1923 and then reviewed the positions of three men (F.W. Strong, O.L. Mankamyer, and Percy E. Krewson) in 1948. “This can never be a dead issue as long as some people who profess to be Christians use instruments of music in worship and others do not use them,” said Brewer. And he explained, “If we are going to restore the New Testament church, we cannot restore something that was not in it.” Other debates occurred between G.K. Wallace and Burton W. Barber at Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1950, Eugene S. Smith and Julian O. Hunt in Dallas, Texas during 1953, and Morris B. Book and James P. Miller in Orlando, Florida in 1955. Barber and Book used both the aid argument and also held to the contradictory position that instruments are both permitted and required, but Hunt stuck more closely to the aid approach.(22) Many other examples might be given.

The psallo argument has been avidly pursued. M.C. Kurfees published Instrumental Music in Worship in 1911 showing that psallo did not carry the inherent idea of the use of instruments in the New Testament period. Briney responded with Instrumental Music in Christian Worship in 1914, trying to show that psallo always continued to carry the idea of an instrument. He said the organ may be “a mere help in worship” or “a means of worship.” When O.E. Payne maintained in a 1920 book that instruments are essential to psallo, Kurfees published a review pointing out that such an argument binds the instrument, a position with which Payne and his friends were very uncomfortable. From 31 May through 5 June of 1923, Ira M. Boswell defended the instrument in debate with N.B. Hardeman before crowds of 6,000-7,000 in Nashville, Tennessee. Briney said the organ was used in connection with but not in worship, then stressed psallo, swaying between the position that instruments inhere in it and that they are merely optional. Tom Burgess is caught in the same dilemma in his more recent Documents on Instrumental Music. Making most of the tralditional defenses but stressing psallo, Dwaine Dunning was unable to extricate himself from this dilemma in his 1976 debate at Mason City, Iowa with Rubel Shelly. Everett Ferguson has provided additional helpful material on the psallo claim, as has James D. Bales in his thorough study of the whole instrumental question.(23)

Periodic respite has come in the number and intensity of this debate at times. The two groups have gone opposite directions, their contacts become more limited, and each has been forced to devote more time to other controversies in their respective ranks. The Christian Churches with the instrument were increasingly embroiled in battles begun in the 1890s over open membership and full-blown modernism, which entailed a wholesale abandonment of any semblance of a restoration plea. The battle raged over control of pulpits, colleges, and various institutions, with a fuil institutional split finalizing in 1968. Meanwhile, churches of Christ had fought recurrent battles over the efforts of some brethren to gain financial support from churches for independent service institutions, especially colleges. The efforts, which had very limited success, were renewed in vigor during the 1950s with more success by emphasis on church support for orphanages, followed in the 1960-70s with the advance of church support for colleges, summer camps, and a plethora of social services and institutions. Also advanced were centralized cooperative projects which coordinated the financial support of many churches through the eldership of one church, as in the Herald of Truth in Abilene, Texas, area-wide preaching campaigns, and the support of preachers on foreign fields. These trends portend an end to the respite from heated internal controversy over instrumental music. It will be advocated and advanced on the coat-tails of these other innovations. Already the Gospel Advocate of 20 March 1980 reports that the Belmont Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee has voted through its elders to allow instruments to be used in worship (see p. 164). Churches which have consistently opposed all the innovations of the past thirty years will not be nearly so vulnerable on the renewal of the instrument problem but will feel some of the effects and must gird for the battle.

The instrument will never be a dead issue as long. as professed Christians are divided over its use! Eternal vigilence is the price for purity in worship. “The loudest call that comes from heaven to the men of this generation is for warfare, stern, relentless, merciless, exterminating, against everything not expressly or by necessary implication authorized in the New Testament.”(24)


1. Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, 2 volumes (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1868-1870), Vol. 1, pp. 237-238.

2. John Owen, Hebrews, second edition (Edinburgh: J. Ritchie, 1814), 5:467, quoted in James D. Bales, Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship (Searcy: Arkansas: James D. Bales, 1973), p. 155. See also the excellent study by Joe Neil Clayton, The Thunderous Silence of God (Marion, Indiana: Cogdill Foundation Publications, p. 1972).

3. On worship, see Campbell’s “Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things, No. 5,” Christian Baptist, II (4 July 1825):239-43; on religion, see his “Anecdotes, Incidents and Facts, No. I,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 3, Vol. 5 (May 1848): 279-83.

4. “Dancing,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 4, Vol. I (September 1851):503-507 and “Instrumental Music,” Millennial Harbinger (October 1851):581-582.

5. See for instance John Rogers, “Dancing,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 4, Vol. I (August 1851):467-468 for report of defenses of both practices in Ecclesiastical Reformer; A. Campbell, “Dancing”; Moses E. Lard, “Instrumental Music in Churches and Dancing,” Lard’s Quarterly, I (March 1864):330-336.

6. Lard, “Instrumental Music in Churches and Dancing,” Lard’s Quarterly, I (March 1864):330-336; Loos, Millennial Harbinger, Vol. 39 (May 1868):280-285.

7. Lipscomb, respectively in three Gospel Advocate articles: 6 January 1886, p. 6; 1897, p. 292; 1911, p. 174. See Earl West, The Life and Times of David Lipscomb (Henderson, Tennessee: Religious Book Service, 1954), 189-190, 244; Robert E. Hooper, Crying in the Wilderness: A Biography of David Lipscomb (Nashville: Tennessee: David Lipscomb College, 1979), p. 311.

8. Henshall, “Instrumental Music In Churches,” Ecclesiastic Reformer, Vol. 4 (15 March 1851):171; Rogers, “Dancing”; Campbell, “Dancing” and “Instrumental Music,” Millennial Harbinger (September and October, 1851):503-507 and 581-582.

9. On p. 199, quoted in John T. Lewis, The Voice of the Pioneers on Instrumental Music and Societies (Nashville: Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1932), p. 120.

10. Franklin and Pinkerton articles entitled “Instrumental Music in Churches,” American Christian Review, Vol. 3 (31 January and 28 February -1860):19, 34. See Earl West, The Search For The Ancient Order, 3 Volumes (Nashville: Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1949; Indainapolis, Indiana: Religious Book Service, 1950, 1979), 1: 310-312.

11. Errett, “Church Music,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 5, Vol. 4 (October 1861): 551-560; Pendleton, Millennial Harbinger, Series 5, Vol. 7 (March 1864):122-130.

12. Munnell, “Review of J. W. McGarvey on Grace,” Millennial Harbinger, Series 5, Vol. 7 (April 1864):158-162 and McGarvey, “A New Definition of Grace,” Millennial Harbinger (May 1864): 227-230.

13. McGarvey, “Instrumental Music in Churches,” “Instrumental Music,” and “Reply” in Millennial Harbinger (November 1864):510-514; 36 (February 1865):88-91; (April, 1865):186-188 respectively; Hayden: “Instrumental Music in Churches” and “Instrumental Music” in Millennial Harbinger (January 1865):38-40 and (April 1865):182-186.

14. Pendleton, “Address,” Millennial Harbinger 37 (November 1866):494-514, see 501-505. For an incisive analysis of the speech, see Earl West, “Learning A Lesson From History, Nos. 1-3,” Gospel Guardian, Vol. I (16 and 23 February, 2 March 1950):3, 4, and 5.

15. Hayden, “Expediency and Progress,” and “Reply to Brother McGarvey,” Millennial Harbinger 39 (January and June 1868):36-42 and 327-334; McGarvey, “Brother Hayden on Expediency and Progress,” Millennial Harbinger (April 1868):213-219.

16. “Expediency,” Christian Standard 3 (26 December 1868):409.

17. See Errett, “Instrumental Music in Our Churches,” Christian Standard 5 (30 April 1870):140 and J.S. Lamar, Memoirs of Isaac Errett, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1893), 2:22-44; reprint from the Apostolic Times by McGarvey, “Instrumental Music in the Church Unauthorized and Sinful,” Gospel Advocate, 74 (21 and 28 January 1932): 72-73, 104-105, and “True Progress,” Apostolic Times, 3 (26 October 1871):228.

18. Alexis, “Alexis on Instrumental Music in the Worship of God in Christian Congregations,” Christian Standard, Vol. 5 (30 April 1870):140; McGarvey, Biblical Criticism Reprinted From the Christian Standard 1893-1904 (Nashville: Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1956), pp. 115-117; Briney, Christian Companion (15 February 1905):4, quoted by M.C. Kurfees, Instrumental Music in the Worship (Nashville: Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1911; reprint 1969), pp. 53-54.

19. McGarvey and F.G. Allen, What Shall We Do About The Organ? (Nashville: Tennessee: McQuiddy Printing Co., 1903), pp. 4-5.

20. Calhoun-Kurfees, Instrumental Music In The Worship (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Publishing Co., 1901); A Debate Between J. Carrot! Stark and Joe S. Warlick (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., [ca. 1903]), Tant-Frost, Debate on the Organ and Society Work in the Church of Christ (Cincinnati, Ohio: F.L. Rowe, 1904).

21. Lard, “Instrumental Music in Churches and Dancing,” Lard’s Quarterly, I, pp. 330-336; Briney, “The Organ, or The Gospel Which?”, American Christian Review, 13 (18 February 1870): 50; Harding, “Another Inconsistency,” Gospel Advocate, 25 (23 May 1883):323; see personal remarks of McGarvey to Jesse P. Sewell, related in his “Biographical Sketches of Restoration Preachers,” Harding College Lectures 1950 (Searcy, Arkansas: Harding College Press, 1951), pp. 66-75 on pp. 74-75.

22. Otey-Briney Debate (Cincinnati: F.L. Rowe [ca. 1908]); Merrell Dare Clubb-H.L. Boles Debate (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate, 1927); Brewer, A Medley on the Music Question (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1948), see pp. 5, 102; Wallace-Barber Debate (Abilene, Texas: Beacon Publications, 1953); The Smith-Hunt Debate on Instrumental Music (Dallas: Good News Press, Inc., 1953); Book-Miller Debate (Gainesville, Florida: Phillips Publications, 1955).

23. Kurfees, Instrumental Music in Worship (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1911); Briney, Instrumental Music in Christian Worship (Cincinnati: Standard Publising Co., 1914); Payne, Instrumental Music Is Scriptural (1920); Kurfees, Review of O.E. Payne’s Book on “Psallo” (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate, 1937); BoswellHardeman Discussion (Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Co., 1923; reprint 1957); Burgess, Documents on Instrumental Music (1966); ShellyDunning Debate (West Monroe, Louisiana: William C. Johnson, Inc., 1977); Ferguson, A Cappella Music in the Public Worship (Abilene, Texas: Biblical Research Press, 1972); Bales, Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship (Searcy, Arkansas: James D. Bales, 1973).


    1. Explain in your own words the plea for unity in truth; include several passages.
    2. Show that the no-pattern argument reduces itself to an absurdity.
    3. What are some other so-called “broad-minded” ideas and practices which have accompanied the introduction of instrumental music?
    4. How does Thomas Campbell’s famous maxim apply to such things as infant sprinkling and instrumental music?
    5. What three positions emerged in the early years of controversy over the instrument?
    6. Why do you think the defense of the instrument evolved from the aid argument of earlier years to the psallo approach later?
    7. Why did proponents of the instrument evolve an argument claiming the instrument is not really “in” worship when used?
    8. What must we do when “Ephraim is joined to his idols,” and what happened to the influence of brethren who did not learn this lesson?
    9. In what dilemma are proponents of the psallo argument trapped?
    10. Explain why the instrument is or is not a dead issue.


Truth Magazine XXIV: 22, pp. 354-359May 29, 1980

Correct “Evolution of Defense” Article

Those who save their copies of Truth Magazine may wish to write in these corrections in the 29 May 1980 “Evolution of Defense for Instrumental Music” article.

(1) The paragraph on pp. 354-355 should read near the end, “This stung Pinkerton because he was the only preacher publically advocating the instrument in Kentucky and Midway was the only church known to be using one.” (2) Near the bottom of column 1 on p. 255, “He noted that its defense was bing made from . . .” (3) The last paragraph of column 2, p. 255, should begin, “The position . . .” rather than, “The defeat . . .” A few lines down, Hayden’s article should be “Expediency and Progress.” (4) With a missing line supplied, the quotation at the top of p. 357, column 2, reads, “To deny, then, that the present use of instrumental music in the church is a part of the worship, is a subterfuge and an afterthought ingeniously got up to obscure the fact that it come under the condemnation pronounced against vain worship and will worship.” (5) The last paragraph in column 1 on p. 358 should begin, “Periodic respite has come in the number and intensity of efforts in this debate at times.”

It is to be understood that such errors will occasionally occur, but the Monroe Country Press of Tomkinsville, Kentucky is to be commended for keeping Truth Magazine on schedule and for consistently good quality in printing.

(Editor’s Note: We always try to keep the copy of material in Truth Magazine as free from errors as possible. The unusual number of errors in brother Halbrook’s article stems from the fact that we received it for publication so late that we had no opportunity to proofread it prior to publication.”

Note appeared in Truth Magazine XXIV: 28, p. 461
July 17, 1980