Joining a Brass Band

Some of the brethren who desire to take a leading part in the church work joined a brass band. They would engage in band practice during our protracted meeting, at the same hour of service. They would also practice instead of attending prayer meeting. We admonished them not to let the band interfere with their church work. They would reject the admonition, and, besides, have given a concert in which they burlesqued* the church and an elder, and one feature of the program was a dance, with banjo music. (Enclosed find their program.) The church has withdrawn from the brethren, charging them with reveling and such like, which Paul condemns in Galatians 5:21. They ignore the action of the church, and claim they will take part in our services, and we cannot keep them from it. Have we acted on scriptural grounds, and how shall we protect ourselves from imposition by them? We desire to do only what the Book teaches.


Joining a brass band or performing in it is not necessarily sinful. The habits and practices of it may lead into sin that Christians ought not to countenance and that a church ought not to tolerate in its members. It is just as lawful to cultivate music in a brass band as in any other way, if no sinful practices are encouraged or participated in. I think the custom of the bands in small towns is to lead out into things that are wrong. The program of this minstrel concert seems to me to indicate that no Christian should participate in it. “Comic songs,” a “negro sermon,” a “dance,” and a “breakdown” constitute items of it. Certainly no Christian could engage in or encourage these. Then it leads to other associations that are evil, to company that lowers the standard of morality, and to the ridicule of religion, and does not obey the admonition of the Spirit, which says: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

Then this seems to me very manifest revelry. Revel is defined: “To feast with loose and clamorous merriment; to carouse; to wanton.” This is condemned as unworthy of Christians. It is especially sinful, and shows a low religious feeling that will cause Christians to neglect church services and Christian worship and instruction to engage in such things. Persons following this course ought to be remonstrated with, and, if possible, saved from such courses. If not, spiritual ruin must be their portion. A man of any self-respect or Christian feeling cannot force himself on a church or claim its privileges which has excluded him. If a man has been, by the customary way, excluded from a church, he has no more right to participate in the privileges of the church than if he had never belonged to it – no more right to force himself upon it than he has to force himself upon the privileges of a private family. The civil courts would protect the church from such intrusion as readily as they would protect a private family. We mention this for the benefit of those who attempt such things. A church had better bear patiently with such intrusions than to appeal to the courts.

David Lipscomb

* “to make ridiculous by mocking representation.


The Definite Article in Greek

Brother Lipscomb: I see an article in the Baptist, Volume XI, No. 11, page 327, headed “The,” in which it is said that Rom. 3:1 should read “the circumcision.” On Romans 3:4 it says that “our translators have inserted ‘the’ before ‘law,’ making the passage refer to some particular law, moral or ceremonial, when it is not in the original text.” Further on it says: “It is by works of law, any law — moral, ceremonial, or ecclesiastical — and, therefore, not by baptism, as the law of pardon.” Now, I want to know if this champion, who fears none and debates with all (except Brethren Brents and Swee­ney), is correct in his rendering, or does he not make void the truth of the gospel by trying to establish a human-made plan of salvation?

The writer in the Baptist is not the first to discover a wonderful “mare’s-nest” in the use of the Greek article with the term law. Several of our learned brethren about Lexington, Kentucky some years ago advanced the same idea in reference to its use. They only made a different application of it. It is likely the editor of the Baptist borrowed the mistake from them, as he has but little originality of thought. There is nothing in it. Mr. Griffin presented the same idea in a discussion we held with him. The use of the article in Greek is a very indefinite matter, and is oftener used or not used for the sake of euphony than on any other grounds. Take, for instance, this sentence. The article is attached in Greek to the word circumcision, but it does not necessarily mean the Jews. The article is attached to the word God in the next verse. Does this mean some particular god among many gods? The term God is frequently used in the same sense without the article attached. In verse 5 the word God is twice used. It refers to the same great Jehovah in both instances. In the first instance it has no article; in the second the article is attached. It is simply a matter of sound. Following some words, the term God would be harsh and difficult of calling. Then the article is used to give a soft and flowing style, easily pronounced. This use or non-use of the article is common in the New Testament with reference to the term God, the term law, and various other terms.

Our brother evidently misquotes his reference to the use of the article with law; but we give an example to show that the article is used or absented even when the Mosaic law is referred to: “The law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law?” (Gal. 3:17-­19.) Now, there is a distinct reference to the law of Moses given four hundred and thirty years after the promise made to Abraham; but there is no article connected with it, either in verses 17 or 18. In verse 19 the article is connected with it. In verse 21 it is used again with the article first, afterwards in the same verse without the article. No sane man can doubt that all these refer to one and the same law. It shows conclusively that the article is used for other purposes than distinguishing between a specific law and law in general. The article did not occupy precisely the same office in Greek that it does in English. The pronominal adjective fills this office.

 David Lipscomb

The Two Sons of Abraham

Brother Sewell: Please write up the two sons of Abraham – one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

The passage is this: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:21-26.)

This is the history of the wife of Abraham – Sarah, or “Sarai” until the Lord ordered it changed to “Sarah.” Sarah had no child till she was quite old, far beyond the natural age of becoming a mother. When she had apparently despaired of ever being a mother, she gave her maid to Abraham to wife, and she became the mother of Ishmael. It was foretold by an angel to his mother before he was born that he would be a wild man, that his hand would be against every man and every man’s hand would be against him. This prediction turned out to be literally true after he grew to manhood. He and his mother remained in the house of Abraham till Isaac was born and the time for his weaning had come. They had some sort of feast on that occasion, and Sarah saw Ishmael mocking at her son Isaac; and she at once decreed that he and his mother must leave at once, and so they did. From this time we have but few items of history of Ishmael. He married an Egyptian woman, had twelve sons, and the family drifted into Arabia and led a roving, wild sort of life. The Ishmaelites bob up occasionally in Bible history for a long time, but they never accomplish much in the world’s history. But this family, Hagar and her offspring, became a sort of type – Hagar, a type of the Jewish covenant, the law of Moses; and her posterity, a sort of type of the Jewish people under that covenant. This is what Paul means in the passage as part of his allegory: That Hagar represents the covenant that was established at Mount Sinai, “which gendereth to bondage … and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” Her children represent in figure the Jewish people, which were under the law of Moses, which Paul calls a “yoke of bondage,” and the Jewish people are trying to hold on to that same yoke of bondage to this day. This is the typical meaning of the bondmaid and her son. But there is much greater importance attached to the other side of the allegory. Sarah lived on till she was quite old, when, in fulfillment of the promise of God through an angel, she bore a son in her old age. This is what is meant by Isaac’s being a child of promise, while Ishmael was born after the flesh–simply a natural, ordinary birth. Sarah was a type, or representative, of the new covenant of Christianity, and her posterity through Isaac were typical of Christians, Abraham’s spiritual posterity. So Sarah represents the church of God, the “Jerusalem which is above,” which “is free,” and “which is the mother of us all.” This is a beautiful figure, and in reality, represents in figure most of the history of the whole Bible and of the whole world to the end of time, when run out to its full meaning; for the spiritual seed of Abraham includes all Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, till the end of time. Paul used this figure in an effort to impress the Jewish Christians of Galatia with the folly and awful danger of turning back to the law of Moses, which had been set aside and which could save no one. He showed that if they undertook to keep the law they would lose all interest, all the benefits that belong to the new and everlasting covenant through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Elisha G. Sewell