Wesley: Above all sing spiritually
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread through all the earth abroad
The honours of Thy name.
This morning as I sat at the piano for a short devotional time I picked up the hymn book and on turning a few pages in was once again drawn to read the following words of John Wesley as he lays out his Directions on Singing.
- Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.
- Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.
- Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
- Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.
- Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
- Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
- Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
All these directions are really helpful, yet personally for me Wesley’s pinnacle, point 7, greatly provokes and stirs me. I truly believe that as we raise our voices in this way, with “an eye to God in every word we sing” that not only will the other points follow more naturally and our sung offering have an all the more beautiful and authentic ring about it, but more importantly the unheard sound of our hearts will be swelled to a mighty crescendo of uncontainable praise that will bubble over into the realms of the visible and audible.
As the current Chapel gathered family we have the backdrop of such rich heritage, yet many of us are carrying in our hearts and even regularly now saying that “the best days are yet to come”…
Dare I say that although the past has seen Westminster Chapel known and defined, in many way rightly so, by its preaching, I believe that, by God’s grace, right now and on into the future are days of a more visible multi-faceted church emerging. And a key part of our church family’s expression and witness will be the beautiful facet of our corporate worship. I believe we will see a fresh wave of authentic songs and sounds being released as we give ourselves all the more to honour and worship God in spirit and truth. Furthermore, I believe as we give ourselves to singing spiritually that there will be a fresh spirit of worship released amongst us that will see ‘ceilings’ that have long restricted us, broken through for good as we enter new land, venturing ways we have not been before. Want to join me in being a people who increasingly sing spiritually?