Text: Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
I. J.D. Tant, a preacher in Texas back in the late 1800's, often ended his articles with the warning, “Brethren, we are drifting.”
A. Such seems to be the tendency of man.
B. We forget the past and just assume that what is currently done has always been that way - Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
C. Some changes are rapid and noticeable. But many are not apparent because the drift covers spans of time greater than an individual’s lifetime.
II. Instrumental Music
A. There is no debate in this matter. The early church only sang in their worship services
1. Ephesians 5:19 - Singing and making melody in your hearts
2. Colossians 3:16 - Singing with grace in your hearts
B. Early Christian writers confirm this matter, writing extensively against instrumental music and noting that it was one of many features which distinguished Christian worship from Jewish worship
1. Clement of Alexander, around 195 A.D. wrote, “The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by whom we honor God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, trumpet, timbrel, and flute.”
2. Eusebius, in the fourth century, in Commentary on Psalm 91, wrote, “Of old at the time those of the circumcision were worshiping with symbols and types it was inappropriate to send up hymns to God with the psalterion and kithara and to do this on Sabbath days (breaking he rest and transgressing the law concerning the Sabbath). But we in an inward manner keep the part of the Jew, according to the saying of the apostle ... (Romans 2:28f). We render our hymn with a living psalterion and a living kithara, with spiritual songs. The unison voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument. Accordingly in all the churches of God, united in soul and attitude, with one mind and in agreement of faith and piety, we send up a unison melody in the words of the Psalms.”
C. It took nearly 700 years, but eventually the Roman Catholics add instrumental music to their worship.
1. Yet it continued to be rejected by the Greek Orthodox and Protestant denominations.
2. John Calvin (1509-1564), founder of the Presbyterian Church: "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the [Mosaic] law . . . Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us . . . is far more pleasing to Him" (Comments on Psalm 23).
3. John Girardeau, a Presbyterian scholar, said, "The church, although lapsing more and more into defection from the truth and into a corruption of apostolic practice, had no instrumental music for 1,200 years (that is it was not in general use before this time); 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, page 179).
4. John Wesley (1703-1791), an Episcopal and a founder of Methodism: "I have no objection to the instruments in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen" (Quoted by Adam Clark).
5. Adam Clark (1762-1832), Methodist scholar and commentator: "I am an old man, and an old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them [musical instruments] productive of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of the Author of Christianity" (Commentary, IV, 686, on Amos 6:5).
6. Robert J. Breckinridge, a Presbyterian scholar, wrote an article dated December 30th, 1851 and entitled, "Protest Against The Use Of Instrumental Music In The Stated Worship Of God On The Lord's Day." In it, Breckinridge said, "…the grand objection to the use of instrumental music, in the manner herein objected to, is that it is contrary to the express will of God, as shown by his positive institutions for his own praise."
7. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) preached to 20,000 people every Sunday for 20 years in the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle where mechanical instruments of music were never used in the services. When asked why, Spurgeon quoted I Corinthians 14:15: "I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." He declared: "I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery."
D. When brethren tried to introduce instrumental music, it was a major factor that cause the division at the end of 1800's which produced the Christian Church and the Disciples of Christ.
E. Look around us and it is hard to find those who call themselves Christians, not worshiping with instrumental music.
1. It has been going on long enough that most people assume that is the way it has always been.
2. Richland Hills Church of Christ, added instrumental music services at the end of 2006, making national news with its departure.
A. Bruce Forbes, a professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, published a book in 2007 titled Christmas: A Candid History.
1. He documents that midwinter celebrations pre-date Christianity.
a. For example, “yule” is the name of a mid-winter celebration in northern Europe that pre-dates Christ.
2. He notes that there was no Christmas observance for the first 300 years of Christianity.
a. The first written record that associates the birth of Jesus with December 25 is found in an ancient calendar for the year 354.
b. The date was likely picked because it fell in the middle of three Roman mid-winter celebrations.
3. In the 1600's and 1700's Christmas celebrations were banned in England and in the New England colonies ran by the Puritans
a. The reason given was that the early Christians did not celebrate Christmas
b. The celebration has too many ties with Roman Catholicism
c. And they saw it as an excuse for way too much partying
d. In colonial New England it was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas and it carried a fine.
4. Congress used to meet on Christmas day up until the 1850's. New England schools were open on Christmas up until the 1870's. Businesses remained open through the 1800's on Christmas day.
5. In fact, some churches would close their doors on Christmas lest some tried to make it into a religious holy day.
a. “Major American denominations -- Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, and Congregationalists -- either ignored the holiday or actively discouraged it up to the late 19th century.” [Bruce Forbes, ibid.]
B. What changed things was Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol
1. It became an acceptable family-centered holiday, without an overtly religious significance, thus breaking the concern of connections to Roman Catholicism
2. “The mainline Protestant churches learned to accommodate Christmas. But the change came from the pews rather than the pulpit.”
3. In other words, the leaders in denominations caved because the demand was so great to have it.
4. Like ancient Israel, the people loved to have it so - Jeremiah 5:30-31
5. Like Paul warned, people will flock to those who will tell them what they want to hear - II Timothy 4:3-4
C. This is how we ended up with a dichotomy of two approaches to Christmas: secular and religious
1. “And the modern Christmas is especially a cultural thing, which might or might not be religious. The result today is that we kind of have two Christmases. We have a Christian Christmas. We have a cultural Christmas. A lot of people do both. Some people do only one.” [Bruce Forbes, ibid.]
2. “Gallup polls from 1994 to 2005 consistently show that more than 90 percent of adults say they celebrate Christmas, including 84 percent of non-Christians.” [Tom Breen, “While most Christians embrace Christmas, a few recall a more complex history,” Dailypress.com, Dec. 14, 2007]
3. Philip Ross, an elder at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Vienna, West Virginia, stated “I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas. It seems obvious to me that there’s nothing scriptural about it, but that’s a hard sell with children.”
D. But of course, people forget all this history.
1. We have banners up in the neighborhood proclaiming “Put Christ back into Christmas”
2. But he was never there. Christmas is a man-made holiday, originating among the Roman Catholics to put a religious slant on existing celebrations.
3. Rejected for centuries, it just recently became popular to celebrate it, but people think it has always been celebrated.
IV. Israel was destroyed by a lack of knowledge - Hosea 4:6
A. Will we let modern innovations and traditions blind us to the truth? - Matthew 15:8-9