You may have read books or watched videos that teach on music and warn against various styles of music, pointing to their association with things that are ungodly. Those discussions about music can be both helpful and at times misleading. They are helpful in that—
They make us aware that we should be concerned about the music we hear.
They expose some very real issues of sin and abuse of music to promote evil. But they can be misleading in that—
They tend to pick on just 1 or 2 styles of music (Rock, Pop), and give the rest a pass.
They often misidentify the problem.
Let me give you some guidelines for thinking about music as it relates to sin…
One of the first hymnals used by Southern Baptists was the Baptist Psalmody. It was published in 1850 by the Southern Baptist Publication Society and recommended for use in all the churches when the convention met in Nashville in 1851. Along with many contributions by well-known English hymn writers (such as John Newton and Isaac Watts), the hymnal included some newer hymns by American Baptists. One that was especially popular was “O Could I Find from Day to Day” by Benjamin Cleavland.
Benjamin Cleavland was born in Windham, Connecticut on August 30, 1733. Little is known of his life. He was married to Mary Elderkin and had twelve children. He settled in Horton, Nova Scotia (later called Wolfville) and was a member of the Baptist church formed there. He remained in Horton until his death on March 9, 1811.
In 1790 Cleavland published a small collection of hymns in Norwich, Connecticut, called Hymns on Different Spiritual Subjects. The hymnal was well received and was in a fourth edition by 1792.  Cleavland’s hymn “O Could I Find from Day to Day” continued to be well-liked and eventually found its way into several collections, although Cleavland’s name was lost from the text. In the Baptist Psalmody the hymn is credited to the Christian Psalmody. The small book Cleavland had published surfaced again in 1870, found by Reverend S. Dryden Phelps in Hartford, Connecticut.  This discovery established the authorship of Cleavland to the hymn (#656 in the Baptist Psalmody).
The opening verse of the hymn is an expression of delight in spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. The remaining three verses are a prayer that we would live everyday in the joy of Christ, that He would rule in our hearts throughout our days, and that at the end of our days we would love Him even more.
Below are the words and link to the hymn set to a tune composed for Cleavland’s lyrics by Tom Wells (Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas). My thanks to Tom for his permission to include his excellent tune in this post.
Why consider the Psalm Inscriptions? From the intro:
The psalms are a rich source of devotion and worship. Throughout history they have taught God’s people how to sing and pray and praise. They lifted the voice of Israel in worship through the Old Testament, comprising the songbook of the Temple. The psalms spoke of Christ and prepared the way for His coming (Luke 24:44). They are mentioned first among the music of the church in the New Testament (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). We are exhorted to sing them in light of their full expression and fulfillment in Christ. The psalms teach us how and what to sing, as our hearts are drawn out and our affections are raised in the presence and power of God. They are a treasure for the Christian and we should turn to them often…
Unfortunately the psalm inscriptions tend to be overlooked in the study of the psalms. The rich theological content and poetic beauty in the psalms themselves have held the interest of scholars and theologians, but the headings are often subject to mere cursory mentions…
The psalm titles are part of the canon of Scripture. In the Hebrew (Masoretic) text they are included in (or as) the first verse of each psalm which has a title. They are therefore a part of God’s revelation and to some degree profitable for the people of God, especially to those concerned with serving God through music.
Down through the ages church history has displayed a rich tapestry of praise to the glory of God. Included in the music of the church are many beloved hymns that have stood the test of time and have become lasting contributions to the church’s voice in worship. These are songs that resonate beyond their age, with proven quality and depth.
There is no question that we should continue to sing and cherish the old, established, proven hymns of the faith. They remind us that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. God is at work in every age accomplishing His purposes and building His church. His Kingdom reaches throughout history and across nations and languages. The old hymns of the faith are the voices and echoes of the past that testify to the greatness and faithfulness of God through the ages.
But how should we sing the great old hymns of the faith? How do we add our voices in the present to songs from the past in ways that will allow us to share in the praise and benefit from the testimony of saints who have gone before us?
Or to ask the question another way: Is it more authentic to sing the great hymns of the faith just as they were written? Should we aim to preserve them in the style and form in which they were composed? Or is it more authentic to recognize that we live in a new day and aim to craft our music to reflect the styles of today? Should we take the old hymns and give them a fresh sound, adjusting and adapting them to fit our voice and our time?
Reading anything of his (Bunyan’s) and you will see that it is almost like reading the bible itself. He had studied our Authorized Version. He read it until his whole being was saturated with Scripture; …. His Pilgrims Progress makes us feel and say ‘Why this man is a living bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the bible flows through him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.
We have dedicated a new website to Pilgrims Progress. Regular posts with graphics (many from antiquarian copies) walking through the work. There is some commentary as well. We did this last year through Face book and have about 2500 followers. This time we are linking from FB to the site itself.
mobi edition (for Kindle, Kindle Fire and other mobi readers)
Both editions also include a PDF edition so you can read the journal on your computer as well
Founders Journal Issue 94 (Fall 2013)
“A Closer Look at Confessions of Faith”
Editoral Introduction: A Closer Look at Confessions of Faith (Ken Puls)
The Moral Law of God and Baptist Identity (Jon English Lee)
The Deterioration of the Baptist Faith and Message (Jason Smathers)
Should We Be Creedalists? (Tom Hicks)
Past Issues of the journal are available free online and in PDF format.
The Founders Journal is published four times a year as an eJournal. It is available for download in two digital formats: ePUB (for Apple iBooks, the Nook, and other ePUB readers) and mobi (for Kindle and other mobi readers). Now that the journal is in digital format, it is no longer necessary to purchase a subscription to the journal. New issues will be announced in our Founders eNews and made available for purchase and download in our online store.
Ken Puls (who we interviewed on our podcast about music in general and music in the church) writes on what the Reformation has to due with our current church services and how we can nurture congregational singing:
Congregational song is a valuable part of worship, but it is something we must not take for granted. Though it is commanded and commended by Scripture, it has ebbed and flowed at various times in church history. One low ebb was at the beginning of the 16th century at the dawn of the Reformation. Services were conducted, for the most part, in Latin, both the spoken word and the music. There was little participation by the congregation. Many could not understand or follow what was taking place. Worship was something to feel and experience, but not something to ponder or understand.
Both Luther and Calvin in their efforts to reform sought to nurture and restore congregational song. They desired that people sing, pray, read Scripture and hear the Bible explained in a language they could understand.
In two of Paul’s letters in the New Testament he instructs the church on what we are to sing together in worship. In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 he lists three terms related to music. We are to speak and teach and admonish one another in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”
So what are psalms, hymns and spiritual songs? What comes into your mind—or into your ear—when you read those verses? Was Paul just stacking up terms as synonyms for music? Was he using terms that were only limited to the 150 psalms in the Psalter? Scholars and theologians have debated the precise meanings.
Over at the Founders Ministries Blog, Ken Puls wrote a 3-part series titled Selecting Music for Worship. It begins:
Leading God’s people in song is a great joy. It is a rewarding responsibility to sing and play psalms and hymns and spiritual songs in praise to God. But like other aspects of worship—reading and preaching God’s Word, lifting up prayers in behalf of the congregation—with the joy comes labor. It takes time to plan and prepare music for worship. This is especially evident given the reality that the task of worship is ongoing. Week by week, music must be selected, ordered and rehearsed. There is always a service coming.
So what is the best way to plan music for worship? How can worship leaders, given the task each week to select music for the services, make the best use of their time and efforts? How can they avoid the ruts of simply resorting to favorites or choosing what’s trendy? How can they guard against weariness and wearing out over time?
There is no simple solution to finding the right songs for the right service, but there are some vital ways that worship leaders can prepare themselves to be ready for the task. Those who give direction to the music of the church must learn to be students, and not just students of the music itself—giving attention to tunes, lyrics and arrangements. In the next several posts, I will explore three areas of study that every worship leader should seek to master…
Here is an excerpt from Ken Puls’ series on Thoughts on Worship. This particular excerpt came from his sermon on Isaiah 6 entitled, “The Inward Reality of Worship”. It begins:
Worship propels us to mission. And our mission is to go and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We want others to find and know the same joy and peace that we experience in Christ. We want others to come and add their voices to the prayers and praise of God’s people. We are zealous of God’s glory and desire to see the glory of God fill the earth. And so we go and we tell.
If you have ever experienced the glory of God and the joy of communing with Him in worship, you know that nothing else will ever satisfy your soul like God. We can never be satisfied with anything else. And we want this joy, not just for ourselves, but for others.
May God grant us a longing and a heart like Isaiah’s. May we be willing to go and to tell. And though our testimony may be to some a “fragrance from death to death” (2 Corinthians 2:16), may we never be resigned to see people turn away from God and perish in their sins. In the face of hardness and stubbornness and rejection, may the cry of our heart be: “How long O Lord?” And may God pour out His mercy and grace in our day.
Pastors are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the church. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). While this command is especially weighty on pastors and teachers, all believers have a ministry “teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16). All believers have a mission to tell others to follow Jesus (Matthew 28:19). And we are all to be ready to share the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
“A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress” was originally published from January 1993 to December 1997 in “The Voice of Heritage,” a monthly newsletter of Heritage Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas