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I was asked to speak a few words to you this evening on “The Value of Music in our Services.” I enjoy to speak on that subject, because I love music and I know the Lord Himself loves music otherwise we would not find so many psalms and hymns in the Bible. Shakespeare says, “the man that has no music in himself is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils.” We might say with more truth: The congregation that has no music in itself is fit for the grave yard, in other words is spiritually dead, for how can the heart be silent that has been set free from the shackle of sin by the redeeming blood of Christ. It must break forth in melody saying with David: I will sing unto the Lord a new song.
The apostle Paul makes a very fitting tribute to the value of music in our church services when he writes to the Col: Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly, etc.
Music, especially as it is used in our services, should not merely be a pleasing combination of sounds and tunes, but an expansion of the heart and soul, as he says singing in your hearts. Some people may well know all the ins and outs of music can play and sing anything as far as the technique of the music is concerned, yet the most we can say about their playing and singing is that they have succeeded in making much noise and have filled our ears with the din of a conglomeration of sounds and tones. That is not music in the true sense.
Music should give expression to the thoughts of the hearts and soul and when that is done, even tones without words seem to speak to us and sound forth a kindred feeling with in our own hearts. Whether the thoughts of the heart are pure or impure, they can be expressed in music. There is an expression of the soul put with the music by the writer and an expression given by the one who plays and sings it. We can make the liveliest music seem frivolous by the manner in which we render it and can sometimes pour into music that was not meant to be religious a sacred feeling that uplifts it out of the mire in which it originally lay. Most valuable for our church service is that music therefore which was originally written to express the lofty truths and Scripture and is also rendered by a soul that lives in these truths.
For of all music church music takes first rank, because of the lofty and worthy and lasting truths which it expresses. The songs of Zion were lovely even the heathen people of Babylon, so that they said: Sing us a song of Zion! Because the songs of Zion have a lasting truth to express, a truth that appeals and talks to every soul, the voice of God speaking to His creatures. There is an extraordinary beauty in all music that gives glory to God. St. Olaf’s choir sings nothing but our old Lutheran church hymns, yet people of all classes find their singing beautiful and uplifting. The greatest music we have and music that can never grow old is church music, music that renders praise to God and Christ. I need but mention: St. Matthew’s Passion by Bach, Creation and Messiah by Handel, (?) Elias by Mendelssohn. It is said of Handel that he was so elated by the truths which he wished to express
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