Category Archives: Ben’s Post
As to public prayers, there are two kinds: the one consists of words alone; the other includes music. And this is no recent invention. For since the very beginning of the church it has been this way, as we may learn from history books. Nor does St. Paul himself speak only of prayer by word of mouth, but also of singing. And in truth, we know from experience that song has a great power and strength to move and inflame the hearts of men to invoke and praise God with a heart more vehement and ardent. One must always watch lest the song be light and frivolous; rather, it should have weight and majesty, as St. Augustine says. And thus there is a great difference between the music that is made to entertain people at home and at table, and the Psalms which are sung in church, in the presence of God and His angels. Therefore, if any wish rightly to judge the kind of music presented here, we hope he will find it to be holy and pure, seeing that it is simply made in keeping with the edification of which we have spoken, whatever further use it may be put to. For even in our homes and out of doors let it be a spur to us and a means of praising God and lifting up our hearts to Him, so that we may be consoled by meditating on His virtue, His bounty, His wisdom, and His justice. For this is more necessary than one can ever tell.
Among all the other things that are proper for the recreation of man and for giving him pleasure, music, if not the first, is among the most important; and we must consider it a gift from God expressly made for that purpose. And for this reason we must be all the more careful not to abuse it, for fear of defiling or contaminating it, converting to our damnation what is intended for our profit and salvation. If even for this reason alone, we might well be moved to restrict the use of music to make it serve only what is respectable and never use it for unbridled dissipations or for emasculating ourselves with immoderate pleasure. Nor should it lead us to lasciviousness or shamelessness.
But more than this, there is hardly anything in the world that has greater power to bend the morals of men this way or that, as Plato has wisely observed. And in fact we find from experience that it has an insidious and well-nigh incredible power to move us whither it will. And for this reason we must be all the more diligent to control music in such a way that it will serve us for good and in no way harm us. This is why the early doctors of the church used to complain that the people of their time were addicted to illicit and shameless songs, which they were right to call a mortal, world-corrupting poison of Satan’s.
Now in treating music I recognize two parts, to wit, the word, that is the subject and text, and the song, or melody. It is true, as St. Paul says, that all evil words will pervert good morals. But when melody goes with them, they will pierce the heart much more strongly and enter within. Just as wine is funnelled into a barrel, so are venom and corruption distilled to the very depths of the heart by melody.
So what are we to do? We should have songs that are not only upright but holy, that will spur us to pray to God and praise Him, to meditate on His works so as to love Him, to fear Him, to honour Him, and glorify Him. For what St. Augustine said is true, that one can sing nothing worthy of God save what one has received from Him. Wherefore though we look far and wide we will find no better songs nor songs more suitable to that purpose than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit made and imparted to him. Thus, singing them we may be sure that our words come from God just as if He were to sing in us for His own exaltation. Wherefore, Chrysostom exhorts men, women, and children alike to get used to singing them, so as through this act of meditation to become as one with the choir of angels.
Then, too, we must keep in mind what St. Paul says, that devotional songs can be sung well only by the heart. Now the heart implies intelligence, which, says St. Augustine, is the difference between the singing of men and that of birds. For though a linnet, a nightingale, or a parrot sing ever so well, it will be without understanding. Now it is man’s gift to be able to sing and to know what it is he is singing. After intelligence, the heart and the emotions must follow, and this can happen only if we have the hymn engraved in our memory so that it will never cease.
And therefore the present book needs little recommendation from me, seeing that in and of itself it possesses its own value and sings its own praise. Only let the world have the good sense henceforth to leave off singing those songs—in part vain and frivolous, in part stupid and dull, in part foul and vile and in consequence evil and destructive—which it has availed itself of up to now, and to use these divine and heavenly canticles with good King David. As for the melody, it has seemed best to moderate it in the way we have done, so as to lend it the gravity and majesty that befits its subject, and as might even be suitable for singing in church, according to what has been said.
(From Calvin’s Preface to the Geneva Psalter of 1543)
I am doing a lesson this Sunday on truth and came across this article. Hope you enjoy.
Sometimes the slogan “All truth is God’s truth” is used to justify dealing in any sphere of knowledge as an act of worship or stewardship. The impression is given that just knowing God’s truth and recognizing it as such is a good thing, even a worthy end. But the problem with this is that the devil does it.
“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” (1Corinthians 8:2-3). Which I take to mean that until we know in such a way that we love God more because of it, we do not yet know as we ought to know.
Alongside “All truth is God’s truth,” we need to say, “All truth exists to display more of God and awaken more love for God.” This means that knowing truth and knowing it as God’s truth is not a virtue until it awakens desire and delight in us for the God of truth. And that desire and delight are not complete until they give rise to words or actions that display the worth of God. That is, we exist to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and merely knowing a truth to be God’s truth does not glorify him any more than the devil does.
All truth exists to make God known and loved and shown. If it does not have those three effects it is not known rightly and should not be celebrated as a virtue.
I give thanks that unbelievers see God’s truths in the natural world in a limited way. They know many scientific and cultural facts. But they do not feel desire for God or delight in God because of them. So these facts are misused. This is not a virtue.
I also give thanks that that believers may learn many of God’s truths from unbelievers and see them rightly and thus desire God more and delight in God more because of those truths, so that unbelievers become, unwittingly, the means of our worship.
Thus an unbeliever’s knowing God’s truth is not ultimately a virtue—that is, not a knowing that accords with God’s purpose for knowing—nevertheless that knowing may be a useful knowing for the sake of what God makes of it for his self-revealing and self-exalting purposes in the world, contrary to all the expectations of the unbeliever whose knowing God uses.
It is fitting, therefore, for God’s sake—for love’s sake—that believers learn what we can from unbelievers who see many things that we may miss, but do not see the one thing needful.
Requiem Aeternam dona eis, domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus Deus in Zion
et tibi redetur votum
exaudi orationem mean,
ad te omnis caro veniet.
Requiem Aeternam Dona eis, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat eis
rest eternal grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them
A hymn befits thee, O God in Sion.
and to thee a vow shall be fulfilled
Hear my prayer,
for unto thee all flesh shall come.
Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
II. In Te, domine, Speravi
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna coelorum.
Exprtum est in tenebris lumen rectis.
Miserere nostri, Domine
Fiat misericordia tua, domine, super nos
quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.
To deliver us, you became human,
and did not disdain the virgin’s womb.
having blunted the sting of death, You
Opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers.
A light has risen in the darkness for the upright.
haver mercy upon us, O Lord,
Have mercy upon us.
Let thy mercy be upon us, O Lord,
as we have trusted in thee.
In thee, O Lord, I have trusted
let me never be confounded.
I am singing this piece with the college choir this semester. It is hauntingly beautiful…
Tell me where is the road I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost, so long ago.
All these years I have wondered, oh when will I know,
There’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home.
After wind, After rain, when the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream, in the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling from far away,
There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.