So closely associated with the work of creation and redemption is the melody of music, expressed in song or in the vibrating chords of musical instruments, that we can scarcely think of one to the exclusion of the other. (See Job 38:4, 7; Rev. 15:3.)
We are told that "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Such "foolishness" is God's ordained plan for saving men. True gospel singing is gospel preaching in a musical setting; and considering the proportion of time allotted to each in a religious service, who will venture to say that a song, sung by one who knows Jesus Christ and His power to save, is any less effective an agency for good than the spoken word? Many a man and woman can trace the moment of conviction or conversion to the hearing of some verse or phrase of a gospel song. How much of life would be barren and dry were it not for the refreshing dew of harmony in song and instrumental music!
A young man—rough, crude, uneducated—was sitting in a church one day, listening to a preacher who had not succeeded in persuading this particular hearer to yield his heart to the control of the Holy Spirit. At the close of the sermon that wonderful hymn, "Almost Persuaded," was touchingly sung; and under its persuasive appeal that young man rose to his feet and gave his heart to God. A year or two later he was in one of our schools preparing for the ministry, and he is now a Bible teacher in one of our colleges.
A story is told of John Ellison Vassar, noted colporteur evangelist, which illustrates the power of gospel song. Following his usual plan, he was at one time engaged in colporteur work preparatory to beginning evangelistic services. An Irish woman had heard that he was visiting from house to house with literature, and she indignantly announced, "Should the young man come to my door, he'll not get a very warm welcome." It was not long before she answered a knock at her door, and found herself face to face with the young preacher. No sooner had he introduced himself than, true to her word, she slammed the door in his face. Nothing daunted, he sat down on the doorstep and began to sing; and moved by curiosity, she listened, and heard the touching words:
"But drops of grief can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do."
When the evangelist began his meetings, he found among those who first responded to his call to bow at the altar, this Irish woman who had treated him in such an unfriendly way. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and as he tried to talk to her and help her to find the Saviour, she sobbed, "0 Mr. Vassar, it was those 'drops of grief' you sang about that brought me here tonight!"
Very often the singing evangelist hears from individuals who assure him that a certain song, at a definite time and place, brought them to the deciding point in their lives. In connection with an evangelistic effort in Spokane some time back, I was singing one night without any particular thought of the possibility of some one in the audience making a decision for Christ at that time. But a few nights later I was told of a woman who, while listening to that song, had made up her mind to yield her heart to God. From that time to the present I have always sung with a prayer in my heart that some soul might make his peace with God as , a result of the song. The minister, too, is often enabled to preach with greater power by means of this God-given medium of song.
Since we know the power of song to stir our own hearts and draw us closer to heaven, why may we not depend upon it to have the same effect upon others, and thus give to it its rightful place in soul-winning endeavor? The Spirit of prophecy, listing three mighty instrumentalities in preparing souls for the kingdom, places song first: "The song of praise, the prayer, the words spoken by Christ's representatives, are God's appointed agencies to prepare a people for the church above, for that loftier worship in which there can enter nothing that defileth." —"Testimonies," Vol. V, p. 491.
Whatever our situation or experience in life, music touches every phase. During discouragement, when the heart is pressed with gloomy foreboding, at times when the soul is sorely vexed by temptation, in the hour of danger, and even when death snatches our loved ones from our arms, what solace and fortitude we may find in song. (See "Ministry of Healing," p. 254, and "Education," pp. 166-168.)
It would hardly be possible to find an audience at any public meeting where there is not at least one soul passing through one or more of these experiences, and the probabilities are that in every assembly there are many whose hearts are heavily burdened. The preacher may be explaining a prophecy or a doctrine, and may make the subject exceedingly plain and impressive, without including a word of encouragement for the soul who, fighting a terrific daily battle with self and sin and becoming utterly discouraged through defeat, has a present personal need of the direct help of the God of heaven. But the singer follows the speaker, and with melodious voice, and heaq on fire with love for God and passion for souls, points the sin-sick soul to the loving Saviour, who can lift a man out of the slough of despond, plant his feet upon the Rock, and "put a new song" in his mouth, "even praise to our God."
It would be absurd to assume that singing should have the major place in the work of evangelism; but it is safe to assert that God has designed that singing shall have its own proper place in the giving of the third angel's message. Let us never fail to recognize His design, and appreciate the wonderful gift of song. Let us also encourage young men and women to spare no effort in preparing themselves to sing the songs of Zion well, with the assurance that in so doing they may guide souls into the kingdom.