(p.193) APPENDIX 2 Translations of Selected Writings
(p.193) APPENDIX 2 Translations of Selected Writings
1. Martin Luther, Von ordenung gottis diensts ynn der gemeyne (1523, translated from WA 12:35–37).
The service of God, as it is now conducted everywhere, has a fine Christian origin, just like the preaching office. But just as the preaching office has been corrupted by the ecclesiastical tyrants, so also has the service of God been corrupted by the hypocrites. Just as we do not now abolish the preaching office, but rather desire to reestablish it in its proper condition, so it is likewise not our intent to remove the service of God but rather to restore it to its proper use.
Three great abuses have occurred in the service of God. The first—that the Word of God has been silenced and there is only reading and singing in the churches—is the worst abuse. The second, since God’s Word had been silenced, so many unchristian fables and lies were brought in, in legends, songs, and preaching, it is dreadful to see. The third, that people have performed this service of God as a work promising God’s grace and salvation, so that faith has been lost and everyone has wanted to build churches, endow them, and become priests, monks, and nuns.
Now in order to do away with these abuses, it is first necessary to know that the Christian congregation should never assemble unless God’s Word is being preached and prayed there, no matter how briefly. As in Psalm 101: “Whenever the kings and the people assemble to serve God, they shall extol the name and praise of God.” And Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14 that there should be prophesy, teaching, and exhortation in the congregation. Therefore where God’s Word is not preached, it would be better if one neither sang nor read nor even assembled.
It was the practice among Christians at the time of the apostles, and should still be the practice, for them to assemble daily for an hour at four or five o’clock in the morning and have a reading, whether it be schoolboys or priests, or whoever, just as the lesson is still read at Matins today. One or two persons should do this, or one after the other, or one choir after the other, however is preferred.(p.194)
Then the preacher, or the one to whom it is assigned, should step up and expound on a part of the same lesson, so that the others all understand, learn, and are exhorted. The former activity Paul calls in 1 Corinthians 14 “speaking in tongues.” The latter he calls “expounding” or “prophesying” or “speaking with meaning or understanding.” Where this does not occur, the congregation is not made any better by the lesson, as has been the case until now in cloisters and monasteries, where they have only blabbered at the walls.
This lesson should be from the Old Testament; namely, that one should take a book and read a chapter or two, or one-half chapter, until the book is finished, then take up another, and so on until the entire Bible is read; and wherever it is not understood, pass over it and glorify God, so that Christians might become, through daily exercise in scripture, knowledgable, skilled and at ease. For in former times true Christians were made in this way, virgins and martyrs, and this should also be the case today.
Now when the lesson and explanation have lasted a half hour or longer, the congregation shall then thank God, praise him and ask him for the fruit of the Word, etc. For this purpose the psalms and several good responsories and antiphons should be used. In brief, let everything be completed within an hour, or however long is desired, for one must not overwhelm the soul so that it becomes weary and bored, as until now in cloisters and monasteries they have burdened themselves with the work of an ass.
In the same way, one should assemble again at six or five o’clock in the evening. Here books from the Old Testament should be taken in order, namely the prophets, just as in the morning Moses and the historical books are read. But because the New Testament is also a book, I have the Old Testament read in the morning and the New Testament in the evening, or vice versa, with reading, explanation, praising, singing, and praying just as in the morning, also an hour long. For everything is to be done according to God’s Word, that it might have free course and ever uplift and enliven souls so that they do not become slothful.
If one desires to hold such an assembly one more time during the day after the meal, this is a matter of choice.
And if perhaps the entire congregation were unable to attend such a daily service of God, at least the priests and schoolboys and especially those whom one expects will become good preachers and caretakers of souls should do so. And one should exhort them to do it by choice, not by force or unwillingly, not for the sake of temporal or eternal reward, but solely to honor God and for the good of one’s neighbor.
But on Sunday such an assembly should be held for the entire congregation, in addition to the daily assembling of the smaller group, and there mass and Vespers should be sung, as has been customary until now. At both times one should preach to the entire congregation: in the morning the usual Gospel and in the evening the Epistle, or the preacher should decide whether he will select one or two books, however it appears best to him.
If anyone then wishes to receive the sacrament, it should be given to him, as one can well arrange everything mutually according to the time and person.
The daily masses shall by all means be discontinued, for the Word is the important thing and not the masses. Of course if several people desire the sacrament other than on Sunday, then mass is held as devotion and time allow, for in this no law nor goal can be established.
The songs in the Sunday masses and Vespers may remain, for they are quite good and drawn from scripture, although one may decrease or increase their number. But selecting the songs and psalms daily in the morning and evening shall be the office of the pastor and preacher, so that they select for each morning a psalm, a good responsory or (p.195) antiphon with a collect; likewise in the evening to be read and sung publicly after the lesson and explanation. But the antiphons, responsories, and collects, the legends of the saints and of the cross, should be laid to rest for a while until they are cleansed, for there is an awful lot of filth in them.
All saints’ festivals should be discontinued or, if there is a good Christian legend, it may be inserted as an example on Sunday after the Gospel. Now I allow the festivals of Purification and Annunciation of Mary to remain; the Assumption and the Nativity of Mary must be allowed to remain for a while yet, even though the song in them is impure. The festival of John the Baptist is also pure. None of the legends of the apostles is pure except for St. Paul; therefore, one may move them to a Sunday or, if desired, celebrate them specially.
Other concerns will take care of themselves over time, as needed. But the sum of the matter is this: that everything be done so that the Word may have free course, not turning into harping and noise again, as has been the case until now. It would be better to let everything go besides the Word. And nothing is more productive than the Word. For the entire scripture testifies that it should have free course among Christians, and Christ himself also says in Luke 10 “One thing is needful”; namely, that Mary sit at the feet of Christ and hear his Word daily. That is the best part that may be chosen and shall never be taken away. It is an eternal Word; everything else must pass away, regardless of how much it might concern Martha. God help us in this regard! Amen.
2. Except from the travel diary of Augsburg pastor Wolfgang Musculus describing the mass he attended in Wittenberg on May 28, 1536. (Source: Theodor Kolde, ed., Analecta Lutherana: Briefe und Actenstücke zur Geschichte Luthers [Gotha, 1883], 216)
At the sixth hour a sermon was held in the castle.
At the seventh hour we returned to the city church and observed by which rite they celebrated the liturgy; namely thus: First, the Introit was played on the organ, accompanied by the choir in Latin, as in the mass offering. Indeed, the minister meanwhile proceeded from the sacristy dressed sacrificially and, kneeling before the altar, made his confession together with the assisting sacristan. After the confession he ascended to the altar to the book that was located on the right side, according to papist custom.
After the introit the organ was played and the Kyrie eleison sung in alternation by the boys. When it was done the minister sang Gloria in excelsis, which song was completed in alternation by the organ and choir. Thereafter the minister at the altar sang “Dominus vobiscum,” the choir responding “Et cum spiritu tuo.” The collect for that day followed in Latin, then he sang the Epistle in Latin, after which the organ was played, the choir following with Herr Gott Vater, wohn uns bei. When it was done the Gospel for that Sunday was sung by the minister in Latin on the left side of the altar, as is the custom of the adherents of the pope. After this the organ played, and the choir followed with Wir glauben all an einen Gott. After this song came the sermon, which Bucer delivered on the Gospel for that Sunday in the presence of Luther and Philipp [Melanchthon]. After the sermon the choir sang Da pacem domine, followed by the prayer for peace by the minister at the altar, this in Latin as well.
The communion. The communion followed, which the minister began with the Lord’s Prayer sung in German. Then he sang the words of the supper, and these in German with his back turned toward the people, first those of the bread, which, when the words had been offered, he then elevated to the sounding of bells; likewise with the chalice, which he also elevated to the sounding of bells.
Immediately communion was held. Pomeranus [Johann Bugenhagen] went first, (p.196) then Fabricius Capito, and after him Bucer. During the communion the Agnus Dei was sung in Latin. The minister served the bread in common dress but the chalice dressed sacrificially [i.e., in mass vestments].
They followed the singing of the Agnus Dei with a German song: Jesus Christus [unser Heiland] and Gott sei gelobet.
After the sermon the majority of the people departed.
Even Luther himself, because he felt dizzy during the communion, had to leave attended by Philipp.
The minister ended the communion with a certain thanksgiving sung in German. He followed this, facing the people, with the benediction, singing “The Lord make his face to shine on you, etc.” And thus was the mass ended.
3. Excerpt (pp. 703–704, 730–34) from the minutes of the colloquium between Jacob Andreae and Theodore Beza, held at Mömpelgard in 1586.
Andreae (opening statement): Music, when sung with many voices or played on instruments, is a special gift of God and should chiefly be used in the divine service, as the example of the blessed kings attests.
Beza (opening statement): And as far as the instruments of music are concerned, we do not condemn music; but when one sings in four or more voices, so that it cannot be understood, the work itself proves the result, namely, that gradually over time a large part of the service is transformed into song, and the spirit is not nourished with the Word of God, but rather the ears are stroked and entertained with a charming voice.
Beza (discussion): As far as the organ and other instruments of music are concerned, we know that they have a special power to move human emotions. And we do not see how music can better be used than for the praise of God and his divine name, so that the hearts of people might be awakened to the true service of God and devotion, and encouraged.
But we see, as has happened under the papacy, that the organ does not communicate, and all that is heard is how lovely the voices sound together, without any understanding, through which not the heart and spirit but only the ears are entertained—to this end the singers are appointed. But what is played on the organ or sung with many voices the common people do not understand; rather, the spirit is centered only in the attractiveness of the song, which alone strikes the ears and entertains the same.
But the music used in the church ought to be such that everyone understands, and the soul comprehends what sounds in the ears, so that everything that is sung is understood: the singing itself should fit the text that is sung. And that is just the style of singing to which the psalms are sung, as is now common in the churches, which music we by no means reprove or discard.
But when the organ or other instruments of music are played in the church, or there is singing with many and various kinds of voices, and the people do not understand what is being sung or played, then the sound or echo stays in the ears, so that it lingers more than the text that is sung.
Therefore we banish only this kind of music from church, for we cannot see how it might be useful there.
In other assemblies, particularly when the people come together in homes, we do not reject such music. But in church the mind should be entirely directed to those things that lead us to God and to the true service of God.(p.197)
And it is no secret at all that organists frequently play bawdy, disgraceful songs on the organ, which likewise should not occur in church.
Therefore we also confess and do not deny that such instruments of music (adiaphora) are neither forbidden or commanded by God. And so we do not anger God by either using or not using them.
I shall now continue and also read the following article.
Andreae (discussion): I’d just like to mention something briefly first and thereby demonstrate our agreement in this as well. For as much as I understand of what you said, you believe that organs in churches (an adiaphoron) are something that one may either have or not, because they are neither commanded nor forbidden by God. In this matter we agree with you.
But you add that in music (musica figurali), either when many sing together in various voices or when one plays the organ or another instrument of music, the listeners pay attention only to the sound and not to what is sung; therefore, such music is not considered beneficial in church as long as only the ears are tickled by it and the soul is not awakened to devotion. To that I give this answer: that which is sung with many and various voices in church is not unfamiliar to everyone, but is well known to the learned who have studied the Latin language or music; indeed with them such song goes to the heart, and the sound does not just echo in their ears.
And I can truthfully say for myself, as I have a special appreciation for such music and the organ, that I do not simply receive the sound with my ears, but my spirit and soul are also awakened through such charming voices, so that I pray all the more fervantly and eagerly, or I deliver sermons with a more burning spirit, or I listen when a hymn is either sung with many and various pleasant voices or played on the organ before the preacher mounts the pulpit, as is the custom in our churches. It is then that I feel within me this secret power hidden in such music, of which you have spoken above, that singing must move a person’s heart. I have also heard from many devout, godly people who have not been educated and are not learned in music that they find this to be true for themselves in the same way as well.
In addition, the story of David is well known, who before King Saul, when the latter was plagued by the evil spirit, played on his harp and through such pleasant sound drove away the evil spirit from him; this sound did not merely reach the ears of King Saul but also touched and moved his heart so that, temporarily relieved of the evil spirit, he found rest. For one does not read that David sang, but rather, as the text clearly indicates, played on his instrument, regardless of what instrument he used.
Therefore the power is not to be rejected that God, in a hidden manner, has implanted in song and in the instruments of this music, power which drove away the evil spirit from Saul, which also penetrates the heart regardless of whether what is sung or played on such instruments is understood by all people. This power is much stronger and mightier in those who also understand the text and the words that are sung with such pleasant voices.
As far as the abuse of organs in churches is concerned, if at times worldly and indecent songs are played on them (which I judge to be a misunderstanding) this is not the fault of the organ but is to be attributed to the organists who abuse such an organ, which was not intended to serve such purposes in church. But it does not follow that because of such abuse the good, right, and beneficial use of the organ should also be abolished and organs removed from the church; otherwise one would have to deny wine to everyone because many abuse it to excess and drunkenness.
Therefore, when organists want to play shameful worldly songs on the organ, one (p.198) should forbid them to do so and earnestly urge them not to do it in the future but rather diligently strive to ensure that the temple might no longer be defiled, so that God might be praised and extolled and everything might proceed and be carried out in good order and form.
4. Excerpt from Theophilus Großgebauer, Wächterstimme aus dem verwüstetem Zion (Frankfurt/Main, 1661), chapter 11.
If through psalms and spiritual songs the word of Christ can be richly planted among us and dwell, but it is quite hurtful to the realm of the pope that the word of Christ is read, sung, and acted upon by the people; for this reason the psalms and spiritual songs have necessarily been taken away from the congregation and entrusted solely to the canons, monks, and other religious.
And so that the people would meanwhile have something to look at and listen to in the assembly, the pope has in place of the psalms hung for them wooden, tin, and lead pipes that produce a great din, having persuaded the people that God is thereby praised. But are not such organ pipes nothing more than living images of a dead Christianity, which to be sure bawl and howl mightily but have neither heart nor spirit nor soul? By this means he has made the people deaf and mute, so that they can neither praise God nor comprehend his Word, but—deafened through the sound of the organ and the brilliant, peculiar performance of music—are rather stunned in amazement and tickled in the ears. The world-reknowned monk Thomas Aquinas, writing around the year 1270, testified (in 2.2.q.91.a.2) that the sound of the organ had during his time not yet been introduced into the church; the church, he said, employed no musical frivolity such as harp and psalter in the praise of God so that it would not appear as if the church had become Jewish … for in the Old Testament such stringed music was used in part because the people were more carnal and harder of spirit and had to be moved through such instruments, just as through earthly promises, and in part because such earthly instruments by their image signified something else. Aquinas finds in Aristotle’s Politics (8, chapter 6) the reason why the church needs no string and organ playing in the service, for (the Philosopher says) it is not pipes, harps, and shawms that are necessary for the acquisition of proper arts and virtues, but rather that which makes the listener devout and virtuous. For musical performances entertain the spirit rather than instill within the heart the things of God. (The same Aristotle says that musical instruments serve to deafen and shout down the pensiveness of the soul rather than to give it aid. He reproves the Lydians because they used sweet-sounding music in their fasts and praises the Dorians because they used a sad, sharp music that would be very conducive to the acquisition of virtues.) Therefore Augustine writes in the tenth book of his Confessions: “When it happens that the song entertains me more than the things that are sung move me, then I am culpable and would much rather never have heard the song at all…. Where someone sings for the sake of devotion, he considers much more closely what is said, for he remains with and adheres to a text longer than otherwise.” Thus far Thomas [i.e., Augustine].
Now no matter who first introduced organs and musical performance in the church, it is certain that the Roman clergy have made a concerted effort, along with the Latin psalms, to place a bit into the church’s mouth and render it mute, so that only the pope may speak, and say whatever he wants, and the church is virtually enraptured by the din, astonished by the power and splendor of the Beast [i.e., the pope]. Against this Erasmus holds that such piping, fiddling, drumming, warbling, and artificial movements (p.199) in the throat were heard neither among the Greeks nor among the Romans in their dramas as among us in our churches.
This is how it has been up until now: at the beginning of the Reformation it happened that the adiaphora were used in love and for the edification of the weak; but what was then an indifferent matter done in the good hope that those who had such ceremonies would join us is now a requirement, having become nearly an article of faith, so that we change nothing even when we clearly grasp that it is necessary and useful. We fail to see that Luther ordained these things on account of the particular requirements of his time.
Certainly superstition is not faith. The church and her shepherds must be alert to the fact that, depending on how the times are, on how the congregations increase in godless, unspiritual ways, the church usages must be adjusted accordingly. “Be alert on all sides,” Paul exhorts. The evangelical church, after she had withdrawn from Babel, has forgotten the words that the heavenly voice cried out to her: “The righteous one will become yet more righteous, and the holy one will become yet holier” (Rev. 22:11). Rather, she has much more acquired the arrogant pride of the Laodicean congregation, saying: “I am rich and quite satisfied, and I need nothing.” But she will be answered: “You do not know that you are destitute and pitiable, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
Oh, such a wretched state! What is happening? To be sure, after the Reformation the congregation of Christ did indeed attain its freedom from the Babylonian Captivity insofar as it was permitted to hear a number of German psalms and to hear the prophecies and psalms in its mother tongue. But just because the pope once upon a time gave only the clergy the authority to sing and to play music, it strikes us as difficult to discard such human silliness with the command of God. Hence organists, cantors, trained brass players, and other musicians, for the most part unspiritual people, unfortunately rule the city churches. They play, sing, fiddle, and make sounds according to their own wishes. You hear the whistling, ringing, and roaring but do not know what it is, whether you should prepare yourself for battle or retreat; one is chasing the other with concerto-style playing, and several of them are fighting each other over who plays most artistically and who can most subtly resemble the nightingale.
And just as the world is not now serious but rather shallow, having lost the old, quiet devotion, so songs have been sent out of the south and west to us in Germany in which the biblical texts are torn apart and chopped up into little pieces through quick runs in the throat: these are “the improvisations” referred to in Amos 6:5 which, as with birds, can pull and break the voice. Then an ambitious collective howling commences to determine who can sing best and most like the birds. Now it’s Latin, now it’s German; very few can understand the words, and if they do understand it, it still doesn’t stick. There sits the organist, playing and displaying his artistry—so that the artistry of one man might be displayed, the entire congregation of Jesus Christ is supposed to sit there and hear the sound of the pipes, on account of which the congregation becomes sleepy and lethargic. Many sleep, some chatter, others look about where they should not, many would like to read but cannot because they have not learned how, although they could be well instructed through the spiritual songs of the congregation, as Paul demands. Many would like to pray, but are so occupied with and bewildered by the howling and din that they cannot. Occasionally it goes right to the edge, so if an unbeliever were to come into our assembly would he not say we were putting on a spectacle and were to some extent crazy?
During the Holy Communion the death of the Lord is extolled and proclaimed only (p.200) rarely and for the shortest amount of time; instead, the body of the Lord, broken on the cross, and his shed blood are distributed during the sounding of the organ and during charming string music and artificial, indistinct singing, just as if Satan with all his power wanted to impede and obstruct matters so that the death of the Lord would be torn from the mind, heart, and memory of the communicants and the death of the Lord would by no means be proclaimed and extolled by the entire congregation.
5. Christian Gerber, Die unerkanten Sünden der Welt, vol. 1, chapter 81.
Concerning the Abuse of the Performed Music in Church
1. Just as human nature has been so completely corrupted through the fall of Adam that it does not allow any of the creatures and gifts of God, whether physical or spiritual, to remain in proper order and use; in the same way, we see that music is in various ways also abused and subjugated to the service of sin. Nebuchadnezzar abused it for purposes of idolatry when he consecrated his great and lovely image (Daniel 3:5). The godless abuse it for drunkenness, carousing, lewdness, and so on. Therefore Job says, “They exult with drums and harps and are joyful with pipes” (chapter 21, verse 12). But even in the divine service the music is used in such a way that not only abuse results from it, but also great scandal. Such singers and such amazingly peculiar compositions are used that the church has greater cause to be ashamed than to rejoice.
2. We want first of all to say a bit about the singers used in many large cities and their principal churches, not to mention princely and royal court chapels: occasionally these include people of various religions and nationalities. Among these one finds idolatrous servants of Baal, papist standard-bearers of Mary, unchaste Italians and castrati, which Luther, in his little book on marriage (vol. 2, f. 210a) calls a wretched people. For he says, “Although they are certainly unfit for marriage, they are nevertheless not free of evil desire and become more addicted to women than before, and quite feminine; and they are as the proverb says: ‘Whoever is unable to sing always wants to sing.’; And so they are also troubled in that they want all the more to be with women but cannot.” The use of such people, who hold to an errant and idolatrous religion, is not avoided in the divine service these days. Such an Italian comes into our assembly for the sake of money and profit and squawks something as ridiculously as he wants. Otherwise, our service is an abomination to him; he scorns it in his heart and takes care lest he be made unclean by it; and so he runs out of the service as soon as he has finished singing and the sermon has begun, exercising his wantonness during it with drinking or with fornicating and carrying on with a mistress, then he comes back. Or even if in many places no Italians are used, but rather Germans, experience shows that they are at times whoremongers, adulterers, drunkards, and otherwise depraved individuals who lead an immoral, unchristian life; but if they just happen to be perfect musicians who sound impressive in vocal and instrumental music, then all is well. I knew a cantor in a leading city who placed more stock in drunkenness than in prayer; he was often in the habit of saying he could compose best when he drank a glass of wine with friends and had a smoke. The bassist with whom the cantor generally performed on Sundays lived in fornication and prostitution and was also much addicted to drunkenness. I have seen in common cities where the citizens, even the workers, that were members of the chorus musicus assisted in making music in the churches on Sunday, singing something from Hammerschmidt; but in the afternoon these same individuals would sit in the beer hall drinking and carousing, singing the bawdiest drinking songs and love songs, and in festival seasons they would go right back into the choir the next morning, even though they were not quite sober and stunk of brandy, like pigs.(p.201)
3. Such people, and others like them, are now used in many places for the music in churches, so a sensible Christian must judge how our dear God is pleased by such praise as is brought to him by people who are unholy and impure in both body and spirit. What is more, many masters and great artists compose such things from a spirit of worldliness and foolish imagination as would be better suited to war to rouse soldiers to battle or to a dance floor than to devotion in church. Often so many things are mixed together that not a single person in the assembly knows what it is supposed to be: now it’s German, now Latin, now even Italian—it doesn’t matter whether the congregation of God understands it or not; it is sufficient if it sounds pleasant and fills the ears, even if the heart is not improved by it. And so most of today’s composers and singing masters generally mind only that the music entertain the ear; the spiritual element they leave out of consideration, often knowing nothing about it themselves. Now certainly singing and praising should be done in spirit and truth, just as with worship. But let us hear what God the Lord might say concerning such singing that consists solely in the external consonance of voices, filling the ears: “Take away from me the bawling of your songs, for I do not wish to hear the sound of your psaltery” (Amos 5:23). Why? Because it was done without devotion, say all the Christian teachers. A well-known commentator recalls in these prophetic words quite thoughtfully: “Let Christian choristers and singers take care,” he says, “not to invest all their musical energy in a sonorous voice, subtlety of modulation, nimbleness in diminishing tones, etc., while they twitter like birds so as to titillate the ears of the curious, drawing attention to themselves and distracting them from prayer, so that they are not heard by God: I will not hear the songs of your lyre, to which the Arab whirls; do not create embellishment (variety, twists, and turns) for me in the sounds of your hymns” (Cornelius a Lapide [van Steen]). That is, all Christians should keep watch in their singing lest they make their entire devotion depend on a bright voice, artistic style, accomplished modulation of the tone, and so on; lest the singers twitter like birds so that the ears of the listeners are tickled and drawn away from devotion.
4. The excellent Augustine has shown in his Distich that through singing not only should the ears be entertained, but much more the heart: “Not the voice, but the prayer; not stringed music, but the heart; not by singing, but by loving does one sing in the ear of God.” Just as Jerome has also written: “One must sing to God not with the voice but with the heart.” (“One must sing to the glory of God not only with the mouth, but also with the heart.”) And the already cited Augustine says again in the explanation to the 18th psalm quite thoughtfully: “Let us sing as rational people, not as with the voice of birds. For the blackbirds, parrots, ravens, magpies, and birds of this kind are frequently taught by humans to make sounds, which they do not understand. But to sing intelligently has not been granted in the divine will to birds but to humans.” That is: “We should sing as rational people, not as birds. For the blackbirds, parrots, ravens, etc. learn to some extent to whistle and make sounds, which of course they do not understand. But intelligent singing is something God has given only to humans.” But look at the present-day manner of making music in our church, God help us, what a clamor and din that is! One hears organs, violins, trumpets, trombones, zinks, and kettledrums, often all together, and at the same time several voices yelling now and then, and one chases the other, trying to outdo the other, striving to be heard with all diligence, artistry, and loveliness; but the listeners seldom understand a word of it, and the text is generally so chopped up and mutilated that one cannot make any sense out of it, even if one can catch several words. Such music is considered quite splendid and is highly praised, but if a stranger were to attend who had not previously heard anything like it, he would think that people had lost their senses or that they wanted to prepare for battle.(p.202)
5. To be sure, I do not deny that in the Old Testament stringed instruments performed music in the divine service and that there was singing in the upper choir; but no one would claim, much less be able to prove, that everything proceeded in such a haphazard way or that the text was so broken and chopped up. In addition, the Old Testament had much that was temporal and all kinds of ceremonies that the church of the New Testament never accepted, in which more emphasis was always placed on the spiritual than physical, more on the internal than external. The blessed [Johann] Arndt says in the second book o f True Christianity (chapter 43, section 3, part 331): “The various kinds of marvelous, lovely musical instruments in the Old Testament which David commemorates in the 150th Psalm refer to nothing other than the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, through which God’s name, praise, recognition, work, blessings and miracles are made known: Therefore they have also passed away, so that the spiritual harps and psalter of the praise of God might take their place.” Accordingly we also find reported in the ecclesiastical histories and writing of the Fathers that the saints have always set greater store by the living human voice than by the sound of pipes and brass instruments. And so Augustine wrote in the tenth book of his Confessions: “When it happens that the singing entertains me more than what is sung moves me, then I am culpable and would much rather never have heard the song.” The world-famous monk Thomas Aquinas, writing around the year 1270, testified that the sound of the organ had during his time not yet been introduced into the church; the church, he says, employed no music such as harp and psalter in the praise of God so that it would not appear as if the church had become Jewish, for in the Old Testament such stringed music was used in part because the people were more carnal and harder of spirit and had to be moved through such instruments, just as through earthly promises, and in part because such earthly instruments signified by their image something else. For musical performances entertain the spirit more than they focus the heart within on divine concerns. Thus far Thomas. Only after this time the popes brought organs, kettledrums, schalmeis, and trumpets into the church so that the people would have something to see and hear, while the congregation was little by little in large manner drawn away from the Word of God and the spiritual songs; and out of the divine service a worldly amusement was created, certainly through the hidden craft of the devil. Nonetheless we take great pleasure in this style; and the more such music is performed in a church, the greater the crowd is there, and many come purely on account of the jolly music in the church and leave perhaps more godless than when they came. Erasmus of Rotterdam, even though he was a papist, nevertheless wrote in one place that he did not believe such fiddling, piping, drumming, warbling, and artificial turning or moving of the throat were heard of either among the Greeks or among the Romans in their dramas as among us in our churches. The blessed Enoch Zobel, zealous and well-deserving preacher in St. Annaberg, writes in the preface to his Christmas Vespers (section 2, page 2): “We might of course consider here figural music in the divine service, which has at least lesser, if not greater, defects connected with it than does the singing of chants and hymns, inasmuch as now and then their Christian purpose is forgotten and a profane and at times absurd worldly performance is made from it.”
6. Once again I must introduce the testimony of that zealous servant of God, Theophilus Grossgebauer, who in his Wächterstimme (chapter 2, page 207) states: “Oh, such a wretched state! What is happening? To be sure, after the Reformation the congregation of Christ did indeed attain its freedom from the Babylonian Captivity insofar as it was permitted to hear a number of German psalms and to hear the prophecies and psalms in its mother tongue. But just because the pope once gave only the clergy the authority to sing and to play music, it strikes us as difficult to discard such (p.203) human silliness with the command of God. Hence organists, cantors, trained brass players, and other musicians, for the most part unspiritual people, unfortunately rule the city churches. They play, sing, fiddle, and make sounds according to their own wishes and imagination. You hear the whistling, ringing, and roaring but do not know where it comes from nor where it is going nor what it is, whether you should prepare yourself for battle or retreat; one is chasing the other with concerto-style playing and several of them are fighting each other over who plays most artistically and who can most subtly resemble the nightingale. And just as the world is no longer serious, but rather shallow, having lost the old, quiet devotion, so songs have been sent out of the south and west to us in Germany in which the biblical texts are torn apart and chopped up into little pieces through quick runs in the throat: these are ‘the improvisations’ referred to in Amos 6:5 which, like birds, can pull and break the voice. Then an ambitious collective howling commences to determine who can sing best and most like the birds. Now it’s Latin, now it’s German; very few can understand the words, and if they do understand it, it still doesn’t stick. There sits the organist, playing and displaying his artistry—so that the artistry of one man might be displayed, the entire congregation of Jesus Christ is supposed to remain silent and hear the sound of the pipes, on account of which the congregation becomes sleepy and lazy. Many sleep, some chatter, others look where they should not be looking, many would like to read but cannot because they have not learned how, although they could be well instructed through the spiritual songs of the congregation, as Paul demands. Many would like to pray, but are so occupied with and bewildered by the howling and din that they cannot. Occasionally it goes right to the edge, so if an unbeliever were to come into our assembly would he not say we were putting on a spectacle and were to some extent crazy?” 1 Corinthians 14. Thus far Grossgebauer.
7. Now all this is the plain truth. Nonetheless many of our people are so accustomed to the music making and din that they esteem it as the most important part of the service, and they are ill-pleased with anyone who would not consider the music making in the church to be praiseworthy and beneficial. But I ask you, in what way do you better yourself from the music? Do you have any use for it at all? Certainly none insofar as your ears are filled and tickled. You say, “I also hear the text.” Answer: But just in pieces and mutilated; it would be better if a spiritual hymn were sung in its place so that you could hear the entire text and be edified by it. Perhaps someone would further say, “I read a book during the music.” Right, then the music making is of no use if you don’t want to listen to it. In addition, it must be quite a devotional reading that occurs amidst such a din, and you may say what you want, but I don’t believe that you can read with devotion, for your thoughts must necessarily be scattered all about by so many instruments and voices. Perhaps someone would say, “The music is performed to glorify God, so I can’t disregard it, can I?” First of all, God has never required anything like this, but self-chosen divine services never please him. Second, the first Christian church never did any such thing. Third, God looks not at the external but at the internal; and where the internal is deficient the external is an abomination to him. Do you imagine that our dear God enjoys it when the organist at times preludes for as much as a quarter hour and creates as many flashy improvisations as might occur to him? I have frequently observed in many places where more than a hundred communicants received the holy supper that the organist raved about on the organ for so long that the communion was nearly finished and there were only twenty or thirty persons remaining to be fed, then the cantor finally began “Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet.” Or during the communion an entertaining musical performance with all kinds of string playing was done. Would it not be better, though, because during the supper the Lord’s death is to be proclaimed, (p.204) if one would sing O Lamm Gottes unschuldig and other Passion and communion hymns in place of the considerable music making and organ playing? Then the communicants would truly receive, especially the simpler souls, good thoughts in their hearts from their Savior; since it is to be desired in any case that our conduct of the holy supper have a little more to it, whereby the comfort the communicants seek might be conveyed to them and the opportunity given them to proclaim the death of the Lord more emphatically.
8. No one should think, however, that all music is to be discarded. No! That the organ is played to accompany Christian hymns is to a certain extent useful. Also, if an excellent scriptural text or spiritual song were sung with modest and unpretentious instruments, without the mixing in of artificial improvisations, so that the congregation could clearly understand it, that could well be tolerated: as with this also the people ought to be adorned with faith and true godliness and be devoted to good behavior. Then I would believe that such music is useful to the congregation and pleasing to God. Besides this, I am very concerned about the generally large sums wasted in many places on the singers and instrumentalists, string and brass players, organs and trumpets; and God says: “Who requires such a thing from your hands?” In many places large amounts are spent on organs; in particular, many cost several hundred, even several thousand, Reichsthaler. And I have heard that an organ is to be built now in one well-known city that will cost nearly ten thousand Reichsthaler just so it can have the honor of saying that an instrument of such size and cost is nowhere else to be found. Oh, how much better it would be if such a city were to erect an orphanage for the same amount of money or, if there were already one there, it could be repaired and improved; with this they would bring God’s blessing upon their city. For God has so very often and earnestly commanded us to care for the poor, but nowhere has he said anything about organ building; indeed I don’t believe that one should expect any reward at all from God for building such an organ. When God one day inquires about your good works, and you answer, “Lord, haven’t I built, or helped to build, an organ for you?” do you really think that God is going to be pleased with you? But if you really want to build an organ, then do it, but consider the words of Sirach: “Be moderate in all things.” One hundred Thaler is certainly better than two, three, or four hundred; just do not forget the living organ pipes, by which I mean the poor and the orphans. For one day when all organ pipes will have been burned up, these will just begin to sound splendidly and render an account before the judge of all the world that your faith was evident in good deeds.
In conclusion I want to cite a quite remarkable place from Luther’s sermon on good works (vol. 1, f. 426b). Luther speaks of the general prayer and desires that in the service there should be more, and more earnest, prayer than is the case. Thereafter he says: “For truly the Christian church on earth has no greater power or works than such common prayer against all that would repel it. The evil Spirit knows that well, therefore he does everything in his power to hinder this prayer: he has us build lovely churches, with many endowments, pipes, much reading and singing, holding many masses, and employing pageantry beyond measure; for that reason he is not sorry, indeed he even assists us to esteem such ways most highly and think that we have done well with them. But where he would perceive that we desire to properly employ true Christian prayer, even though it be under a straw roof or in a pigsty, he would surely not allow it to happen, but rather would fear the pigsty far more than any tall, large, lovely church, tower, bells, or organ that might be found anywhere, as long as such prayer were not present there. Truly it does not depend on the cities and buildings, nor on singing and playing where we assemble, but only on this inconquerable prayer, that we pray it together rightly and let it come before God.”