Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…
Psalmody held a very prominent position in Jewish worship, and there are evidences from the apostolic writings that it was not less honoured in the Christian Church. Certainly a dispensation which was ushered in by angel anthems, and which surpassed all that went before it in gladness, should not be wanting in scope for praise and adoration. The Church that neglects psalmody neglects a most important element of its life and work, and will assuredly suffer in consequence. Let us especially beware of the absurd notion that good music is essentially allied to any particular kind of teaching, and the most foolish, suicidal policy of degrading the service of song because we may not agree with the doctrines of those people who develop it most richly. This is to leave to them a monopoly of a pleasing attraction and of a function of the Christian life which all Christians have a right and a duty to employ. If it was wise not to "let the devil have all the best tunes," it must be unwise to permit those people whose religious teaching we think erroneous to have all the good music. Consider some of the leading characteristics of good psalmody.
I. IT SHOULD BE BEAUTIFUL. This is but an external condition, and worthless without higher qualifications. But it is not unimportant.
1. We should offer our best to God. It is unworthy to cultivate good music in our homes and to seek the best music for our entertainments, and to yet offer our praises to God in slovenly, unmusical tones.
2. We should help the expression of our own devotion by all means in our power. Good psalmody will not create devotion in an undevout heart, but it will assist it in one that is devout, while wearisome dulness and jarring discords will greatly hinder it.
3. We should attract others to our religion. It is not only lawful, it is our duty, to use all means that we may win some. No means are more effective than good psalmody. Now, this beauty of psalmody is evidently contemplated by St. Paul. "Psalms" represent what is sung to musical accompaniments; "songs," what is rendered in poetry. Poetry and music constitute the external beauty of psalmody.
II. IT SHOULD BE HEARTFELT. "Singing with grace in your hearts."
1. The first condition is the enjoyment of Divine grace. Psalmody should be the expression of adoration and praise in response to the grace of God. If we have not the grace we cannot truly take our part in the Church's song of praise. But let us not distress ourselves with the narrow notion that none who are not clearly spiritual Christians can take part in Christian psalmody. For the grace of God is so wide and various that every man has tasted some, and they who have not the highest grace have still enough for devout thankfulness.
2. The praise must come from the heart. Whether we have received much or little grace we must be consciously thankful, and must sing God's praises in our souls if we are really to praise him at all. After all, the music of the heart, even if it be sounded forth by a very harsh voice, is what God most values.
III. IT SHOULD BE OFFERED TO GOD, THOUGH ALSO AIMED AT OUR OWN MUTUAL INSTRUCTION.
1. The first great object of psalmody is "singing... unto God." This gives to it its peculiar solemn interest. Worship is expressed by it, and worship is the noblest act of the soul.
2. Nevertheless, indirectly we teach and admonish one another by these songs. Strictly didactic poetry is not, perhaps, either very interesting or very instructive. But the experience of one soul when breathed forth in song may be helpful to another soul. Hence the supreme value of the Hebrew psalms, those inimitable expressions of universal religious experience. We may receive in song what we would not heed or feel when offered in formal instruction. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.