Music is pre-eminently the language of the heart and soul. Often it is deeper and more potent, or persuasive, than the
spoken word. Music is of heavenly origin. It sprang from the courts of glory and reaches back into the dim and distant eons of eternity. It was part of the original order of heaven, and was perhaps the supreme medium for expressing the reverent adoration of the angels for their Creator, before the entry of sin blighted the universe.
When man fell, everything pertaining to man, including his relationship both to God and to man, was perverted. This included his music. Like other good things, it was distorted to serve the propensities of self and sin and enticement. In its perverted form it made evil attractive. At the same time, in the remedial plan of redemption the preaching of the saving message of God to man was to be supported by music that reveals the love and proffers the claims of God—music that augments the entreaties of the gospel, that man may again be reconciled to God. "Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" had a vital place in apostolic evangelism.
But time passed, and the great Latin apostasy developed, bringing perversion not only into doctrine and practice of life but into ecclesiastical music. Like the Bible and the religious ritual of the time, it came to be separated from the people through restriction to the official 'Latin tongue of the great falling away. Catholic music lost its saving purpose. Though ornate and impressive, it became but part of a sterile ritual.
Therefore, when the Protestant Reformation broke forth, there was a return not only to the gospel message but to the purer forms and fundamental purposes of sacred music. This varied in degree and emphasis in the different countries. In Lutheranism sacred song was highly effective, and was often feared even more than the preaching of the clergy from the desk. It drew the heart of men Godward, breaking the stultifying spell of apostasy and separating alienation.
But in time these very Reformation churches lost their early evangelical fervor, and much of the early power of their sacred music. This was noticeably true of the formal Anglican communion. Then it was that the great Wesleyan revival rose to meet the needs of men through restoration of heaven-born preaching, coupled to hymns and spiritual songs that reached the heart and moved the soul heavenward.
More time passed, and we now come to relatively modern days. Once more there had come a waning of the spiritual flame, and of evangelistic vision and fervor, in the old established churches of Protestantism. So God had to raise up a new and vigorous movement to revive and restore the sagging evangelical faith and to herald the final entreaty of God to man ere the second coming of Christ, which now was drawing near. This movement called for a revival of lost truths and a restoration of forgotten practices, a reformation touching every department of life—doctrinal, prophetic, health, educational, et cetera. The Second Advent, the judgment hour, and preparation of the heart to meet God became the dominant note from which all messages got their pitch.
A new literature had to be produced to meet the specific need. It is true that the standard religious gems and classics of the past were still read and respected, and employed in their related place, yet a whole new literature was imperative, commensurate with the new demands and giving the required emphasis of the times. This became an impressive reality, and it was matched by appropriate hymns and gospel songs.
The merely pastoral type of preaching, predominantly in vogue in most of the popular churches, neither meets our need nor answers to the expectation of God. We are commissioned to warn and win sinners as well as to edify saints. We have a message for every soul on earth. This calls for a ceaselessly aggressive evangelism.
The same is true in the realm of the sacred music of the remnant church. Music that matches our preaching and our commission is a fundamental part of our equipment today. The staid hymns of the centuries, which were the medium of worship for the saints in other ages, still have their place. But along with them we need those spiritual songs of life and experience which convey the appeal of Christ to the heart in this supreme hour.
It is to be regretted that, in an attempt to meet this need, cheap and unworthy songs have sometimes been produced, with syncopated rhythm and other unrepresentative elements.
That these have been employed by some is to be deplored. They represent the other extreme which we should shun.
Whatever is sound and appropriate music available from the past we use. It is our rightful heritage. But it is a specious philosophy that what was good enough and sufficient for past periods will suffice for the present and the future. No more is this true in the realm of music than in the content and scope of our preaching and our literature. We have a world to warn and a people to prepare, for the coming of the Lord. We have a heavenly mandate to carry out. Indeed, we live for one purpose only—to prepare men and women to meet God, calling out His children not only from within the vast labyrinth of Babylon but from outside, among the unchurched masses in Christian lands, as well as the great stretches of the heathen world with its heartbreaking needs.
Not only roust we preach our distinctive message, but we must also sing it. We must instruct and testify and appeal to men both in word and in song. We must blend and harmonize these two great mediums ordained of God for reaching the minds and winning the hearts of men. This calls for songs with definite heart appeal—songs that reach the soul, songs that have a Christ-centered, saving message, songs that solace the troubled heart, songs that help men to decide for God and right, songs that inspire obedience, songs that fortify the spirit, songs that carry the throbbing heart of the gospel into the hearts of men, songs that are a priceless asset—not a fill-in, merely to occupy the time.
Powerful moving songs are needed—songs that sing in the heart, songs that burn themselves into the memory, that become an inseparable part of the being, lifting the soul God-ward. Such is the music we need to augment and enforce the remnant message. Such music constitutes the other half of the gospel.
L. E. F.