By S. Leonard Tyler
I am taking the liberty to pass on to you some of Mr. Henry Halley’s thoughts presented in his Halley’s Bible Handbook (24th Edition, copyrighted 1965, pp. 826-828). His expressions are denominational, being a denominationalist, but, not withstanding, he pushes the group singing, choirs, solos and special selections aside for the beauty, enjoyment and effectiveness of congregational singing. He also suggests that no “long winded preacher” should crowd out congregational singing, while he emphasized the need of purposeful preaching and pulpit appeal but not to the distraction of congregational singing. I may differ somewhat in his proportionate arrangement of the hour: twenty minute prayers: twenty minutes singing and twenty minute sermon but agree with allowing time for all.
Mr. Halley places emphasis upon the need and effectiveness of congregational singing. While differing from him on choirs, solos and special selections in the worship, I heartily agree with him on the need for good congregational singing. It has a divine place as well as a very special purpose in our worship to God. Professionalism is out in singing, preaching, praying and/or any other act of divine worship to Almighty God. It must come from the heart of the worshiper.
The New Testament instructs, “Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). These texts teach congregational singing. Each one should sing with grace in his heart unto the Lord while teaching and admonishing others. Allow me now to quote from Mr. Halley’s book.
“CONGREGATIONAL SINGING next to Bible teaching is the BEST FEATURE of a religious service, the most effective way to preach the Gospel. A Singing church is always well attended. People love it. A SINGING church and a TEACHING pulpit. “Moses sang, and lead the people in singing. Miriam sang. Deborah and Barak sang. David sang, and wrote the Psalms to be sung. Jesus and the Twelve sang, Paul and Silas sang. The angels sing. In heaven EVERYBODY will sing.”
He also suggests that Luther’s hymns bore his preaching over central Europe and states that singing made the great Welsh revival. Then asks, “Was there ever a revival without it? The very best way now to rejuvenate dead churches would be to sing them into life.” Think of some of the exploiting Evangelists’ campaigns today. How are they winning and holding their audiences? Not by the message of truth of God’s word but rather by the professional exposition of musical entertainment. Mr. Halley may have over evaluated the effectiveness of singing, notwithstanding, he certainly calls our attention to a very important fact. Singing weighs heavily upon the hearts of people. Think of Elvis Presley’s songs, lyrics and lascivious gyrations that turned the whole international musical world upside down and with it the moral standard came tumbling down into the hippy jungle of uncontrollable, emotional passion.
Parents, be not deceived into thinking that the type of songs, lyrics and gyrations your boys and girls see and hear are without lasting effect upon their innocent minds in forming their concepts of life and the type of character they want to become. Singing carries with it a great influence with the quickest results both within and out of the religious world. “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms,” is applicable (James 5:13).
Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is not to take the place of any other act of worship. Singing has a place in the divine plan and should hold and fill that place effectively. We must never think or say, “We just do not have time to sing.” Take time to sing praises to God and to teach and admonish one another. This should not be a task. It should be a love and joy fulfilled.
This is the more reason that selecting the songs should be carefully done. We are going to sing praises to Almighty God. We are going to teach and admonish one another, We are going to sing from our hearts with joy and thanksgiving to worship God acceptably and express unto Him our sincere devotion and praise.
Our attitude should be just as reverent, sincere and consecrated in singing as in any act of worship. It is just as divinely prescribed and its purpose is just as holy and heart searching as any offering given in worship.
Paul said that lie would sing with the spirit and understanding also (1 Cor. 14:15). What is your attitude toward singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? Do you love it? Are you glad to join with others in singing praises to God with grace in your heart? Then open both heart and mouth and let the praises ring and the joy of your own heart be expressed in singing, not to please men, but to praise God and teach people.
When is it most important to sing? Any time and every time we sing in worship to God. Sunday morning, night; Wednesday night, during the meeting – whenever we have the opportunity to sing and make melody in our hearts unto the Lord, let’s do it with all our might.
In the words of an old hymn:
“All hail the pow’r of Jesus Name!
Let angels prostrate fall!
They bro’t the royal diadem,
And crowned Him Lord of all!
Let every Kindred, every tribe:
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And praise Him! King of all!
O that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall!
We’ll join the everlasting song,
And praise Him! Judge of all!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 23, p. 713