Teacher of English and Speech Golden Gate Academy Angwin, California

We live in a world of music. We are constantly surrounded by it in myriad forms. It pours forth in never-ending streams from radios, television sets, loud-speaker sys­tems, and phonographs. Every re­ligious meeting, every program, and every motion picture makes use of music in some way. The man on the street sings it, the boy on his way to school whistles it, and the choir peals it forth in mighty anthems.

We find from our study of the writings of Ellen G. White that music was given to us by God and is meant to be a blessing. Here are a few short quotations from her pen illustrating the virtues of music.

"Music can be a great power for good." —Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 71. "Music . rightly employed, is a precious gift of God, designed to uplift the thoughts to high and noble themes, to inspire and elevate the soul."—Education, p. 167. "Song is one of the most effective means of impressing spiritual truth upon the heart."—Evange­lism, p. 500. "Music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which is pure, noble, and elevating."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594.

But there is another side of the picture. We find that music, like everything else in this world of sin, can be a power for evil as well as good. We find that music may "de­prave the imagination and debase the mor­als."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 653. It is "often perverted to serve purposes of evil, and it thus becomes one of the most allur­ing agencies of temptation."—Education, p. 167. "How many employ this gift to ex­alt self."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594.

"A love for music leads the unwary to unite with world-lovers in pleas­ure-gatherings where God has forbidden His children to go."­Ibid. From the previous state­ments we can draw the follow­ing conclusions:

Music may influence for good or evil. A love of the right kind of music can speed the Christian on his spiritual and upward way, while a love for the wrong kind may pull him downward to destruction.

This leaves the sincere Christian with a problem. His happiness on this earth and his future destiny are at stake. It is a prob­lem that he has to face. He cannot ignore it without peril to his soul.

In considering the problems of morality in music, morality in music, we should recognize two separate classifications of music—sacred and secular. First of all, let us consider these from the negative point of view. Mrs. White says that in evangelistic work the ways of the world should not be followed. Theatrical display and worldly singers are not to be used. Formality is to be shunned, and al­though sacred music should have emotional appeal, it should not be extremely emo­tional. (See Evangelism, pp. 500-504.)

On the positive side we read: "Music was made to serve a holy purpose, to lift the thoughts to that which is pure, noble, and elevating, and to awaken in the soul devo­tion and gratitude to God."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594. Words and phrases used in describing the sacred music of an­cient Israel include the following: "songs of rejoicing" (ibid., pp. 704, 705); "thanks­giving" (Education, p. 162); "songs of praise" (ibid); "triumphant anthem" (Pa­triarchs and Prophets, p. 288); "glad ho­sannas" (The Desire of Ages, p. 448); and "jubilant strains" (ibid., p. 449).

David used sacred music in a therapeutic sense, as a cure for anxiety and depression. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 643, 644.)

In the early morning, Jesus, during His youthful years on this earth, welcomed the morning light with singing. He cheered His hours of labor with songs of thanks­giving and gladness. (See The Ministry of Healing, p. 52.)

We are told that in the new earth the redeemed will sing songs of victory, praise, joy, and thankfulness. (Ibid., p. 506; Edu­cation, p. 407.) And here is a significant statement: "Music forms a part of God's worship in the courts above, and we should endeavor, in our songs of praise, to ap­proach as nearly as possible to the har­mony of the heavenly choirs."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594.

The following are brief quotations and descriptive phrases regarding good sacred music. "Rightly employed, it is a precious gift of God, designed to uplift the thoughts to high and noble themes, to inspire and elevate the soul."—Education, p. 167. The Holy Scriptures put to music and used in singing have wonderful power—"power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action, and to banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort."­Ibid., p. 168. "The science of salvation is to be . . . the theme of every song."—Evangelism, p. 502.

Another quotation names the three posi­tive elements that music should have: "beauty, pathos, and power."—Testimo­nies, vol. 4, p. 71.

From the preceding quotations we may be able to compile a list of both negative and positive qualities regarding sacred music. And this list could be a help to us in making intelligent moral decisions regard­ing the use of music in worship.

Our first list suggests three things that good sacred music should not possess: dis­play, formality, extreme emotion.

The following qualities should be con­tained in sacred music: beauty, pathos, power, inspiration, harmony, elevation, no­bility, purity, holy purpose, devotion, and gratitude to God. Its theme should be the science of salvation.

Measuring Secular Music

In our study of secular music we find that Mrs. White offers only the negative view. What her complete, or almost com­plete, silence in commendation of secular music means is a good question. It is doubt­ful that she felt that a Christian cannot safely participate in anything but sacred music. However, her warnings against cer­tain types of secular music contain the in­formation needed in its evaluation.

Here are two somewhat similar quota­tions describing the kind of music Chris­tians should avoid.

Angels are hovering around yonder dwelling. The young are there assembled; there is the sound of vocal and instrumental music. Christians are gathered there, but what is that you hear? It is a song, a frivolous ditty, fit for the dance hall.—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 506.

A view of one such company was presented to me, where were assembled those who profess to believe the truth. One was seated at the instrument of music, and such songs were poured forth as made the watching angels weep. There was mirth, there was coarse laughter, there was abundance of en­thusiasm, and a kind of inspiration; but the joy was such as Satan only is able to create.—Counsels to Parents and Teachers, p. 339.

The servant of the Lord says that music can become an idol. In many cases it "has occupied the hours which should have been devoted to prayer."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 506. It may lead to pride, vanity, and folly. Some music is infatuating and causes sacred music to be uncongenial to the listener's taste.

Here is a strong statement that should be read by all who play a musical instrument: "No one who has an indwelling Saviour will dishonor Him before others by pro­ducing strains from a musical instrument which call the mind from God and heaven to light and trifling things."—Ibid., p. 510.

Notice the associations that give additional clues as to the type of music re­ferred to: "Low songs, lewd gestures, ex­pressions, and attitudes, deprave the imagi­nation and debase the morals."—Ibid., vol. 4, p. 653.

It is pointed out that a love for music leads the unwary to unite with the people of the world in places not fit for Christians. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594.)

Speaking of the youth, she says, "Frivo­lous songs and the popular sheet music of the day seem congenial to their tastes."—Testimonies, vol. l, p. 497. This music takes time from prayer and excites, but does not impart strength and courage against temptation.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus

Teacher of English and Speech Golden Gate Academy Angwin, California

July 1964

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Sunrise over New Guinea

Reaching a people untouched by civilization.

Our Missionary Program for the Blind and Visually Handicapped

Do you know what the Christian Record Braille Foundation is doing?

Transmitting Blessings by Telephone

Camp-meeting by telephone.

The Year-Day Principle*

***** PERMANENTLY UNPUBLISHED: Ministry Magazine does not want to promote this author's works. *****

The first part of this challenging presentation appeared in the last issue. In order to get the full impact of this author's thesis it would be wise to study these two sections together. We are assured our readers will appreciate the research Dr. Ford has made in this important area of prophetic truth.—Editors

The Gift of Tongues

The Counsel of the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy

Read This—Before Building a Baptistry

It is the rare pastor who has not faced the problem of arranging for installation of a baptistry at some point of his ministry. It is the equally rare pastor who is not conscious of costs in making such arrangements.

"Do the Work of an Evangelist"

Paul's charge to Timothy.

Shock Therapy for Ministers

A parabolic satire with serious spiritual implications

"That Your Fruit May Remain"

A wise missionary statesman once said, "It is equally as important to save what we have as what we haven't."

The Pastor's Relationship to the Sabbath School

Why do I, as a Seventh-day Ad­ventist minister, feel so keenly the importance of the Sabbath school?

The Challenge and Dignity of Small Congregations

Why is so little said about the glory, the challenge, and the dif­ficulties of work for God in small areas?


Monthly pointer's by the Ministry staff.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated

Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - NAD Stewardship (160x600)