In the Bible much is said about man's duty to sing. James says, "Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry ? let him sing psalms." Paul exhorted the Colossians to be "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." And Isaiah tells us that "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads."
Who can count the value of singing? Vasser, that great personal worker, while assisting in a series of meetings, was told of an indignant Irish woman who declared that the preacher had better not come to her house if he knew what was good for him. As it was Vasser's custom to visit every house in town, he immediately set off for her home and presented himself at the door. He was promptly ordered out. Turning to go, he sat down on the steps to pray and sing. Soon his clear, sweet voice rang out as he sang,
"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."
The door softly opened behind him, and the Irish woman, now subdued and weeping, invited him to come in. "Oh, those drops of grief," she said, "it was those drops of grief I could not resist."
A soldier lay dying on a great battlefield. A minister approached and knelt to give him the consolation of the gospel. But the dying man turned away. "Don't talk to me about religion," he said ; "I don't want to hear it." The minister did not give up. He began to sing a beautiful old song. The soldier turned over and, summoning all his strength, whispered slowly, "Mother used to sing that song when I was a boy. Tell me how I, too, may become a Christian." The song accomplished what all things else had failed to do.
A singing church is a triumphant church ; and likewise a triumphant church will be a singing church. Of Luther it was said that he stole the hearts of the people by his songs more than he did by his preaching. His songs were remembered and used long after his sermons were forgotten. Much of the success of the Wesleyan movement is attributed to Charles Wesley's songs.
A social worker once said, "If I can get my people singing, I can get them to do 'most anything." Singing arouses the soul to action, to do, and to dare. We are told that "the melody of song, poured forth from many hearts in clear, distinct utterance, is one of God's instrumentalities in the work of saving souls."—"Testimonies," Vol. V. p. 493. There is indeed a close relationship between a sing-ing church and a working church. This relationship has long been recognized. When Cromwell led his men into battle, he often led them forth singing gospel songs. While they sang, they marched; while they marched, they fought ; and while they fought, they got the victory.
It is said that in the earlier part of the Civil War the Government proposed to economize in its military bands. Many bands were disorganized. Then the soldiers began falling back, and a cry went up from the battlefields that was heard all the way to Washington. "We have not enough music," they shouted. The Government changed its course, more bands were sent to the field, and fresh victories were won. They found that it did not pay to economize on music.
Who has more reason to sing than do Christians? They are assured that all things work out for good here, and are promised an eternity of bliss over there. Why should they not sing? Certainly a joyful Christianity will attract many more converts than will a sad or somber variety. Like Paul, Christians can be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; . . . poor, yet making many rich; ... having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Moreover, we now have a world to warn, and the task calls us all to be at it, always at it.
Like a mighty army the church of God must now move forth to a confused and baffled world. Singing will help us keep step together.
It will warm our hearts to do exploits for the Master. While we sing we can march better, and while we march we can work better, and when all work, the church will move from victory to victory until she triumphs gloriously.
Two Farewell Hymns. —That gifted hymnwriter, Ira D. Sankey, tells us that the two most useful farewell hymns in the world are "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" and -God Be With You Till We Meet Again."
Jeremiah Eames Rankin, the author of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," (Adventist "Church Hymnal," 13: 35), frankly says of the genesis of his hymn that -it was the product of a cool purpose, and not the result of any experience or feeling." He was then pastor of the First Congregational Church in Washington, D. C., where changes in membership because of executive appointments or popular votes came frequently. Dr. Rankin felt the need of an appropriate and dignified farewell hymn, and this he wrote. He says, "I attribute its popularity in no little part to the music to which it was set. It was a wedding of words and music, at which it was my function to preside; but Mr. Tomer should have his full share of the family honor." William Gould Tomer, the writer of the music, was a German schoolteacher, a soldier in the Civil War, and a clerk in the Treasury Department. He was teaching school in 1882 when he wrote the music to this hymn.
"God Be With You Till We Meet Again" was immediately popular for both farewell occasions and at funerals. In fact, it was sung by a large assembly of friends and neighbors only a few years later at the funeral of Mr. Tomer.
The song, "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," (Adventist "Church Hymnal," p. 336) had a decidedly different origin. John Fawcett, the author, had been called from his small pastorate at Wainsgate to a large church in London. The farewell sermon had been preached, and the Fawcett belongings were all loaded in wagons, when the devoted parishioners flocked around and begged their beloved pastor not to leave them. Finally Mrs. Fawcett said, "John, I cannot bear this." "Neither can I," he replied. "We shall not go."
Touched by the loyalty of his little flock, Doctor Fawcett went to his study and composed the words that have meant so much to Seventh-day Adventists, not only as a farewell hymn, but as a reality of this truth that binds us closer than kinship. Truly we can say—
"Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love!
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above."