Singing & Revival

Psalm 9:11
       Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Singing and preaching, as a means of glorifying God, are here joined together, and it is remarkable that, connected with all revivals of Gospel ministry, there has been a sudden outburst of the spirit of song. Luther’s songs and hymns were in all men’s mouths, and in the [Methodist] revival under Wesley and Whitefield, the strains of Charles Wesley, Cennick, Berridge, Toplady, Hart, Newton, and many others, were the outgrowth of restored piety.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Consider the great hymns which were written, and which became so popular, [over] two hundred years ago. There are so many of them, written by Charles Wesley, Philip Doddridge, Isaac Watts, William Williams, and by many others. What is the great theme of these hymns? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing more typical of the eighteenth century revival and awakening than such words as, “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly…” Into the midst of all the deism and the philosophical preaching that had characterized the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, came this warm, devotional, vital, spiritual, preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ, and people’s personal knowledge of Him. Those hymns are full of it. And you find that it is exactly the same in every other period of revival. All is concentrated on Him. The favourite hymns that were sung a hundred years ago, in all the countries that were visited by revival, were just these hymns about the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): An old author tells us he remembered the time when in numberless houses, at certain hours on the Lord’s day, singing might be heard as you passed, from one end of London to the other.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Welsh Calvinistic Methodism was also characterized by singing. William Williams produced most of the hymns, and the people would sing them to old tunes and ballads…The hymns of William Williams are packed with theology and experience. That is why I once, in giving a lecture on Isaac Watts, ventured to say that William Williams was the greatest hymn-writer of them all. You get greatness, and bigness, and largeness in Isaac Watts; you get the experimental side wonderfully in Charles Wesley. But in William Williams you get both at the same time, and that is why I put him in a category entirely on his own. He taught the people theology in his hymns; as they sang the hymns they were becoming familiar with the great expressions of the New Testament doctrines of salvation and the glory of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: We sing too little, I am sure, yet the revival of religion has always been attended with the revival of Christian psalmody. Luther’s translations of the psalms were of as much service as Luther’s discussions and controversies; and the hymns of Charles Wesley, and Cennick, and Toplady, and Newton, and Cowper, aided as much in the quickening of spiritual life in England as the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): Music is a delightful and lovely gift of God; often it has excited and moved me so that it has quickened me to preach…After theology, it is to music that I give the first place and the highest honour.

J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): Luther was a thorough German in possessing a most musical ear and taste. His high opinion of music seems to us quite exaggerated, but it might have partly sprung from his witnessing the effects of the newly-composed hymns sung all through Germany…And the same Lord who so richly endowed him with the gifts of writing and preaching furnished him also with great powers of poetical composition. The first hymn which he wrote had a most remarkable effect. Three young monks who had been converted from Popery were burnt alive by the Inquisition in the marketplace at Brussels. One of these young martyrs said, when the flames reached him, “it seems to me as if they were roses.” Luther wrote a hymn upon their death, full of fire and energy which, in a short time, was sung everywhere in Germany and the Netherlands.

MARTIN LUTHER: No, their ashes will not die; Abroad their holy dust will fly,
                              And scatter’d o’er earth’s farthest strand, Raise up for a God a warlike band.
                                          Satan, by taking life away, May keep them silent for a day;
                                But death has from him a victory rung, And Christ in every clime is sung.

J. H. MERLE d’AUBIGNÉ (1794-1872): From the days of Luther the people sang; the Bible inspired their hymns. It was impossible, in celebrating the praises of God to be confined to mere translations of the ancient hymns. Luther’s own soul, and that of several of his contemporaries, raised by faith to the sublimest thoughts, and excited by the battles and perils which incessantly threatened the rising church, soon gave utterance to their feelings in religious poems, in which poetry and music were united and blended. Thus the sixteenth century beheld the revival of that divine poetry which from the very first had solaced the sufferings of the [early church] martyrs. We have already seen how, in 1523, Luther employed it in celebrating the martyrs of Brussels.

WILLIAM JAY: There has never been a revival of religion in any country or in any neighbourhood, but has been attended with a fondness for psalmody. Luther knew the force of it, and much and successfully encouraged it in the beginning and progress of the Reformation in Germany.

C. H. SPURGEON: In Luther’s day his translation of the Psalms and his chorales did more, perhaps, to make the Reformation popular than even his preaching, for the ploughman at his field labour, and the housewife at the cradle, would sing one of Luther’s Psalms; so, too, in our own country, in Wycliffe’s day, fresh psalms and hymns were scattered all over the land. And you know how, in the [18th] century, Wesley and Whitefield gave a new impetus to congregational singing. The hymns were printed on little fly-sheets after each sermon, and at length these units swelled into a volume. Collections and selections of hymns were published. So fond, indeed, were the Methodists of singing, that it became a taunt and a by-word to speak of them as canting Psalm-singers. But this is the mark of a revived church everywhere. New impetus is given to the service of song.

MARTIN LUTHER: With all my heart I would extol the precious gift of God in the noble art of music, but I scarcely know where to begin or end. There is nothing on earth which has not its tone. Even the air invisible sings when smitten with a staff. Among the beasts and the birds song is still more marvellous. David, himself a musician, testified with amazement and joy to the song of the birds. What then shall I say of the voice of man, to which naught else may be compared?

C. H. SPURGEON: The singing of the birds of praise fitly accompanies the return of the gracious spring of divine visitation through the proclamation of the truth. Sing on brethren, and preach on, and these shall both be a token that the Lord still dwelleth in Zion.


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