Anglican Morning Devotion for 31 August 2021 Anno Domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Can music be an instrument of war? Yes, especially when that music calls upon the mighty power of God. The British are famous for marching in line of battle to the Scottish pipes and drums, and even our American army traditionally charged into battle at the sound of the trumpet. In fact, it is a trumpet that will herald the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31; all scripture quoted is from the king James Version)
But suppose the trumpet gives an uncertain sound – one which is out of harmony with the virtuous and goodly inclination of the Holy Spirit? “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8) Much of our modern music does not fit the fundamental definition of music – lacking melody, harmony and simple beauty.
Light and sensual music and lyrics of the modern gospel fads appeal more to the degenerate morality of man than to the high moral Law of God. Some have claimed that music lacks moral meaning, but it is the lyrics that define its moral properties. Such opinions reveal a common deception of the modern mindset. Inspiring anthems lift our spirits and focus on noble emotions. It is for this reason that most National anthems of the world are stirring and sublime in their appeal. You will not find a nation whose national anthem is comprised of heavy metal notes. Distortion in the natural beauty of music corresponds to the distortion of the natural beauty of God’s Creation in abstract painting such as those depraved examples of Picasso.
As Martin Luther describes music: “Music is a beautiful gracious gift of God. It has often been the inspiration of my sermons. Music rouses all the emotions of the human heart; nothing on earth is so well suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy. And hate, as music.” 1
Please note the potential of music to arouse emotions. Music is powerful in that property to arouse emotions – both good and bad. Eve n on the rare occasions that classical hymns are sung in the church, they are often sung in a sensuous manner so that one does not know if in a church or a nightclub. So, Music inspires emotion. Music played erratically creates confusion and unrest. Music played in soft and gentle notes inspires comfort and peace. Johan Sebastian Bach, the greatest musician of the Baroque Era, felt that all of his compositions were inspired by God. In the musical script, he always placed a notation, “Thank you Jesus,” at the beginning of the score or at the end. I believe it was so inspired of God. His music is still played in churches and cathedrals around the world.
Music comforts in time of stress or hardship. As David said: “ I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.” Psalms 77:6. Music adds reverence and dignity in worship, or in high ceremonials of government: “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the mighty One of Israel.” Isaiah 30:29
Music has led armies into battle. Ironically, the Confederate bands played a polka during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. Perhaps that would amount to the trumpet’s uncertain sound. At Yorktown on October 20, 1771, the British Army under Cornwallis marched onto the field of surrender as their band played, “World Turned Upside Down.” In another sad example, the band of the RMS Titanic played, “Nearer My God to Thee” as that greatest of sea vessels sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic with 1500 souls still aboard.
God used the power of music under King Jehoshphat to defeat the enemies of Israel: “Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.” (2 Chronicles 20:20-22)
Just remember that music itself has a moral quality for good or bad. When we sing the classical hymns of the church which are designed to reinforce doctrinal truth and beauty, are we not aroused to a higher spiritual plane than when light and fluffy songs are sung with sensual implications?