M. D. Clubb remembers J. W. McGarvey, part 1

First Affirmative

At the beginning of this discussion, which is to appear simultaneously in the gospel Advocate and the Christian-Evangelist, I suppose a word of explanation would be in order. The discussion grows out of conditions which are peculiar almost entirely to the South. The music question is of no concern whatever in any other religious body except our own, and with the great mass of our people it is, as it should be, “a dead issue.” Professor McGarvey was asked a short time before his death what he then thought of the question as it affected our people, and he answered: “The churches have settled it.” Here is a custom which is well-nigh universally practiced by Christians of our time, and not one word of objection is raised against it, except by a small group of Christians here in the South. This incontroverible fact should have some weight with these brethren.

M. D. Clubb is in 1927 the Secretary of the Tennessee Christian Missionary Society and Editor of the Tennessee Christian.  H. Leo Boles is President of David Lipscomb College.  This discussion first appeared in the pages of the Christian-Evangelist (Clubb’s affirmatives) and the Gospel Advocate (Boles’ negatives).  I am quoting from the compilation published in 1927.  This quote above is the first paragraph of the first affirmative (by Clubb).

M. D. Clubb and H. Leo Boles, Discussion, Is Instrumental Music in Christian Worship Scriptural. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1927, page 7.


2 thoughts on “M. D. Clubb remembers J. W. McGarvey, part 1

  1. Interesting.

    John T. Lewis takes on Clubb in [i]Voice of the Pioneers[/i] which came out a few years later (~1932). Does anyone else mention this story about McGarvey? It has a whiff of apocryphal-ness about it and is more reminiscent, perhaps, of Clubb’s linguistic power plays than anything McGarvey might have actually said (or, at least, might have meant by what he said).

  2. In 1927 Merrell Dare Clubb (1865-1946) is old enough to know better, but — as is true of many members of the clergy — his arrogance is exceeded only by his ignorance. He is a native of Kentucky, educated in the College of the Bible, and is married to a daughter of Robert Graham. Beyond Kentucky and Tennessee, he has spent time only in California. Had he worked in Indiana, Illinois, or Missouri, he would have encountered plenteous and strenuous resistance to musical instruments in worship outside “the South.”

    In Kentucky — a quintessential “border state” — Clubb knew Robert Graham and, surely, McGarvey, and he knew McGarvey’s views. The words he attributes to McGarvey are, at best, enigmatic. McGarvey’s own practice should indicate that whatever “the churches” had “settled” for themselves, they had not decided for him.

    Both Clubb and Jesse Parker Sewell offer their accounts of McGarvey many years after the fact. Sewell, for his part, puts in the mouth of McGarvey the judgment that James Alexander Harding had long since pronounced on McGarvey. Without the corroboration of earwitnesses, i should think that we do well to treat these recollections of McGarvey with a “hermeneutic of suspicion.” These are two polemicists attempting to “prooftext” McGarvey for their own purposes. What they quote in their arguments should be weighed in the context of McGarvey’s published statements.

    God’s Peace to you.


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