How do you sing in (better said: “with”)the church? I’m not asking whether you sing on pitch or not, or even if your voice sounds good. Some of us can only make “a joyful noise”. Don’t be ashamed, you’ve got a verse for that (Psalm 100:1)! Rather, who’s the audience you’re singing to: the people beside you or God? Who’s leading you in song: the music leader or the Spirit of God? When do you sing with the most gusto: only songs that you like?
Sometime last year I came across these words from John Wesley that he wrote as a preface to a 1761 hymnal. In case you’ve forgotten, his brother, Charles, wrote about 6,500 hymns! Consider what he has to say. And may your voice be an instrument of praise as you worship God together with the redeemed this week.
– Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.
– Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
– Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.
– Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first. …
– Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
—From John Wesley’s Select Hymns, 1761