The Instrumental Girardeau

Title: Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church (1980 edition)

Author: John L. Girardeau

This is a work that has been criticised for its existence as much as for its content. Those who believe that there is licence to worship God according to our own lights are offended at the idea of a book such as this by Girardeau, for they perceive a restriction upon their freedom to do what they want as "unfair". Girardeau is a breath of fresh air because it does not enter into his argument that worship should be regarded on such a trite, horizontal level. Worship, to Girardeau, is the vertical aspect - we worship God, and we worship him as he wants to be worshipped.

Of course some would agree with this sentence but find fault with Girardeau yet. Such people would contend that the Lord wants musical instruments to be used now because they were used in the Old Testament. But Girardeau knew the arguments and preempts any such attack:

Moses with all his wisdom, the Judges with all their intrepidity, Saul with all his waywardness and self-will, David the sweet Psalmist of Israel with all his skill in the musical art, did not, any of them, venture to violate that principle, and introduce into the public services of God’s house the devices of their imagination or the inventions of their taste. The lesson is certainly impressive, coming, as it does, from that distant age; and it behooves those who live in a dispensation this side of the cross of Calvary and the day of Pentecost to show cause, beyond a peradventure, why they are discharged from the duty of obedience to the divine will in this vitally important matter.

Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church p.38

The beauty of Girardeau is the clarity in which he explains that musical instruments were part of Temple worship and since the Temple has gone, so has the music associated with them. The worship of the New Testament onwards (and therefore in Churches today) follows from the Synagogue:

In his great work On the Ancient Synagogue, Vitringa shows that there were only two instruments of sound used inconnection with the synagogue, and that these were employed, not in worship or along with it as an accompaniment, but as publishing signals - first, for proclaiming the new year; secondly for announcing the beginning of the Sabbath; thirdly, for publishing the sentence of excommunication; and fourthly, for heralding fasts. These were their sole uses. There were no sacrifices over which they were to be blown, as in the tabernacle and temple. And from the nature of the instruments it is plain that they could not have accompanied the voice in singing. They were only of two kinds - trumpets (tubæ), and rams’horns or cornets (buccinæ). The former were straight, the latter curved. Nor is it to be supposed that the cornet, like the modern instrument of that name, was susceptible of modulation, and therefore of accompanying vocal melody. It had but one note, and was so easy to be blown that a child could sound it. Further, they were, for the most part, used not even in connection with the synagogue buildings, but were blown from the roofs of houses, so as to be heard at a distance.

Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church p.39-40

 The other common argument in favour of the use of instruments in the public worship of God is the appearance of musical instruments in the Book of Revelation. Girardeau answers this point too:

Instrumental music is justified in the church on earth by the consideration that it is represented as employed in the church in heaven..... All that the glorified saints will experience in heaven cannot, from the nature of the case, be realised on earth. They will not need to confess and deplore continually recurring sins, but we are obliged to do so below...... They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but it would scarcely be legitimate for us to argue from their example to what our practice should be.

Instrumental Music in the Public Worship of the Church p.184-185

The acceptance of Girardeau as a serious exhorter to worship God aright is restrained by whether the reader accepts the regulative principle. If someone does not believe that what God has commanded must be done and what God has not commanded should not be done in his worship, then of course the floodgates are open for anything in worship. But that is a lawless, antinomian approach. We cannot make space for such opinions because they are without end. The antinomian will have his cake, your cake and everyone else's cake but never be satisfied because having refused to take God's Word seriously, he insists that his own word is law.

No, the contentions must lie in where the regulation of Scripture lies - what is left from the Old; what is precious in the New. Girardeau answers these matters to my satisfaction.