The First & Second-Century Church


PLINY, who wrote about 100 AD said in his Letters [to the Emperor Trajan] Book X.xcvi:  "....they sang in alternative verses a hymn to Christ."


TERTULLIAN, who lived about 155 to 222 AD, wrote from Carthage in On the Soul 9:4:  "....the psalms are chanted...."


CLEMENT of Alexandria wrote about 190 AD in Miscellanies VI.xiv.113:3:  "....praising, hymning, blessing, singing...." and in Instructor III.xi.80.4:  "Those who sing such and sing in response are those who before hymned immortality...." and in Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol. II, "We make use of only one organ or instrument, even the peaceful word, with which we honor God; no longer with the old psaltry, trumpet, drum or pipe."



Great Theologians


About 1250 - THOMAS AQUINAS - CATHOLIC:  "Our church does not use musical instruments as harps and psaltries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize" (Bingham's Ant., Vol. 3, pg. 137).


About 1500 - DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, a contemporary of Martin Luther and one of the most renowned classical scholars of his age:  "The church rings with the noise of trumpets, pipes, and dulcimers; and human voices strive to bear their part with them.  Men run to church as to a theater, to have their ears tickled.  And for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries" (Commentary on 1 Corinthians iv.19).


About 1525 - ULRICH ZWINGLY, REFORMED CHURCHES, influenced the following events:  "On Sunday the 19th of January [1528], the day on which the doctrine of the Mass was attacked...a priest...stopped in astonishment at Zwingle's words....stripped off his priestly ornaments and throwing them on the altar, exclaimed, 'I can celebrate it [Catholic Mass version of Lord's Supper] no longer!'...some men, excited by the passion of the moment, fell upon his beloved organ, an accomplice in their eyes of so many superstitious rites, and violently broke it to pieces.  No more mass, no more organ, no more anthems!  A new Supper and new hymns shall succeed the rites of popery."  (History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, J. H. Merle D'Augigne, 1835, Translated by H. White B.A. of Canterbury, M.A. and Ph.D. of Heidelberg, 1844, Vol. XIII, pg. 606).


About 1550 - JOHN CALVIN - BAPTIST, PRESBYTERIAN, REFORMED CHURCHES:  "Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lightning of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.  The Papists therefore have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.  Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to Him" (Commentary on Psalm 33).        


Calvin further said in discussing the timbrels of Miriam, Moses' sister, "Musical instruments were among the legal ceremonies which Christ at his coming abolished; and, therefore we, under the Gospel, must maintain a greater simplicity" (Four Last Books of Moses I:263).


ABOUT 1550 - JOHN KNOX - PRESBYTERIAN:  "This principle not only purified the church of human inventions and popish corruptions, but restored plain singing of psalms, unaccompanied by instrumental music." (Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559)


About 1775 - JOHN WESLEY, METHODIST: "I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels provided they are neither seen nor heard."  (Methodist Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. II, pg. 686)


About 1800 - ADAM CLARK - METHODIST:  "I have never known instrumental music to be productive of any good in the worship of God and I have reason to believe that it has been 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 I here register my protest against all such corruption in the worship of that Infinite Spirit who requires his followers to worship him in spirit and in truth" (Commentary on Amos 6:5).

About 1850 - CHARLES SPURGEON, BAPTIST:  "We should like to see all the pipes of the organs in our nonconformist places of worship either ripped open or compactly filled with concrete.  The human voice is so transcendently superior to all that wind or strings can accomplish that it is a shame to degrade its harmonies by association with blowing and scraping."  Also, We might as well pray by machinery as sing by it” and “Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her learn; but in these days when Jesus gives us spiritual food, one can make melody without strings and pipes… we do not need them. That would hinder rather than help our praise. Sing unto Him. This is the sweetest and best music. No instrument like the human voice.”  (Commentary on Psalm 42)

1920 - H. G. WELLS:  “The music of the early Christian centuries was devout and enthusiastic rather than elaborate....'A Christian maiden,' said St. Jerome, 'ought not to know what a lyre or a flute is.'  Psalm singing and instrumentation were taken over by the Christians from the Jewish services.”  (The Outline of History, Book 6, Ch. 28, pg. 448)


1996PRESBYTERIANS:  See also containing Presbyterian Watchman And Observer review of article on “ORGANS”, Richmond, VA,  February 22, 1849, Volume IV, No. 28.




Volume 10


Instruments in Worship

            Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice. Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments even at Christian banquets. St. Chrysostum sharply contrasts the customs of the Christians when they had full freedom with those of the Jews of the Old Testament.  (pg. 648-652)

For almost a thousand years Gregorian chant, without any instrumental or harmonic addition was the only music used in connection with the liturgy. The organ, in its primitive and rude form, was the first, and for a long time the sole, instrument used to accompany the chant…. The church has never encouraged and at most only tolerated the use of instruments….She holds up as her ideal the unaccompanied chant, and polyphonic, a-cappella style. The Sistine Chapel has not even an organ.  (pg. 657-688)



            The organ has never been prescribed for use in the Roman Catholic Church by Church law; it has apparently been used in the Church consistently since the 9th century.  By the 13th century the organ was certainly in general use.  (pg. 129-131, 746)


            [In 1903 Pope Pius X opposed the use of instruments in worship, although he did approve of the organ.  In 1939 Pope Pius XII relaxed this prohibition, allowing instrumental music that was executed artistically.]