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Jonathan Edwards on Singing

In the two-volume edition of Jonathan Edwards works, published by the Banner of Truth Trust, there is in volume two a treatise on the subject of the necessity of self-examination. In this section Edwards argues, with his usual carefulness and thoroughness, that Christians must engage in that most difficult work of examining themselves concerning sinful practices. He points out why, in so many of us, sinful habits may continue. This is due primarily to the deceitfulness of sin, in which, although God’s word is abundantly clear, we nevertheless fail to accuse ourselves.

One particular area of self-examination that he recommends is related to the Lord’s Day. He warns against the excuses we will use to justify our secular jobs on Sunday. For example, we will excuse ourselves for only losing part of the day on our own work, even though the commandment clearly belongs to the whole day. And in this section he presses upon all Christians the duty and necessity of engaged singing in corporate worship.

The Quote

He writes:

“Do you not live in sin, in living in the neglect of singing God’s praises? If singing praise to God be an ordinance of God’s public worship, as doubtless it is, then it ought to be performed by the whole worshipping assembly. If it be a command that we should worship God in this way, then all ought to obey this command, not only by joining with others in singing, but in singing themselves. For if we suppose it answers the command of God for us only to join in our hearts with others, it will run us into this absurdity, that all may do so; and then there would be none to sing, none for others to join with.”


I found this to be particularly interesting, as I had a conversation with a brother in Christ recently who told me that many in his church do not participate in the singing. And I, too, have noticed at times that there are professing Christians in a church that simply do not participate in the singing portion, either by just barely mouthing the words, or sometimes by not even opening the hymnal at all.

Singing is a part of worship. And therefore it seems that it is wise for Christians to join, full voice, into the corporate singing of God’s praises when we gather on Sundays. Songs and tunes should therefore be singable. The music should not drown out the voices of the people. The words should be Christ-exalting and God-honoring. “O come, let us sing to the Lord!” Psalm 95:1

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