“What are the signs of the times in the sphere of Worship?
I confess that upon this subject I scarcely dare trust myself to speak. The movement of our times strikes me with astonishment. There was nothing in the past about which God was so jealous as the mode of His worship. There was nothing around which He threw guards and fences so awful as around His worship. His wrath leaped forth as a vehement flame against those who asserted their wills in His worship. He reserved to Himself the high prerogative of appointing the ways in which men should approach Him in His public worship, and instantly resented every invasion of that prerogative. But all that is now changed, we are told. We have passed under the milder sanctions of the New Testament dispensation, and more discretionary power is granted to the church.
Hold! Did not Christ enjoin it upon His apostles to teach the church to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded? And does not that necessarily imply that they were to teach the church to abstain from all things whatsoever He had not commanded? To do nothing which He had not commanded? Did not the apostles organize the church according to His will? Did they not appoint her whole order, including her public worship? And are we not bound by Christ’s will thus expressed? Did the apostolic church know anything of instrumental music in public worship, of liturgies, of the decorations of church edifices? How come we to know them except by breaking with the apostolic order and the will of our King?
Hearken, men and brethren! Let us take just one of these elements of innovation upon the primitive order of worship and rapidly trace its history. For 1,200 years the Christian church knew nothing of instrumental music in her public worship. In the thirteenth century its proposed introduction into the Church of Rome — corrupt as it then was — was ineffectually resisted by some of her most eminent theologians.
At the reformation the Swiss Protestant Church cast it out; the French Protestant Church cast it out; the Dutch Church cast it out; the Scotch Church cast it out; the English Puritans cast it out; and the Church of England came very nigh casting it out. At its first planting, the American Evangelical Church refused to adopt it.
What do we now behold? Its use by nearly all the leading churches of Protestantism, in opposition to the Scriptures and the venerable precedents which have just been recited. What a change! What a blazing sign in the sky of the Protestant Church! What is to stop the tendency? The beginning is the mother of the end. What end? The full orchestra of Rome.”
from Sermons of John L. Girardeau, The Signs of the Times in the Church, Matthew 16:3