Bible Commentaries
Psalms 150

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-6

Music As a Factor in Culture

Psalms 150:1

Music is a gift of God. Like all the sciences it is a radiation of Divine truth.

I. The Divinity of music further appears in the fact that the greatest musicians have been good men; and to develop the mighty impulses which they have felt in their souls, the great musicians have chosen lofty Divine themes. It is a mission of music to soften and remove the asperities of men. It helps to unify the race and make men homogeneous in spite of controversy and unbelief, the music of all the Christian Church is saving this world for the Christmas of Christ. The hymn and the singer are often a long way in advance of the sermon and hearer in evangelizing influences. Music refines and ennobles. Music brightens life's dark places, and soothes the heart in trouble.

II. Music could not enjoy its best development until man had passed beyond his feudal age and reached the time when the lion and the tiger were being eliminated from his nature. Men had to pass beyond their barbaric, belligerent, and boisterous eras before they could realize that the highest expression of mind and spirit is in music. Music, if not more perfect than printing, the art preservative of all arts, is surely the best interpreter of all art and science. The mystery and miracle of truth reveal their open sesame when studied through the atmosphere of music. Music is thus an intellectual factor. It is not so much a truth-seeker as a truth-finder.

III. Instrumental as well as vocal music should be made a part of the public school curriculum of every child. True religion like true love is emotional, and music is the most adequate impression of the emotional faculties. Faith sings, unbelief never. Music reveals God. All revivals of religion have been accompanied by revivals of sacred songs. Music is the language of celestial throngs. True eloquence is thought winged with music. The infinite God is more perfectly worshipped with musical accompaniment because music goes beyond language and logic and opens up the vistas of faith through which can be seen the King in His beauty.

Music and Religion

Psalms 150:6

I. All concerted music has an educational value far higher than that of music written for a single performer. It is the work of people associated together as they are in society, and thus it teaches the lesson of life to those who are willing to learn. For, first, it demands preparation, careful and continuous. And that be sure of it is one of the most valuable lessons that we can learn; we can compass nothing great, we cannot even understand anything great, without patience and pains. Once more. In life as in music we cannot all take leading parts. Most of us are but members of the great chorus, our voices serve to swell and deepen the harmonies of human life. In life as in music, perhaps many of us shall do our work the better the less we make a show of doing it publicly.

II. Music has an important office to fulfil in religion, in those great duties which we call duties to God. For noble music reveals to us that there is another world beside that which we can see; it gives expression to the inarticulate yearnings of our souls after something higher and better than earth can give. It is the language of emotion, as speech is the language of intellect. It speaks to us of that which we feel, as distinct from that which we can be said to know. Thus we put it to its worthiest and most fitting use when we employ it to express religious emotion, to be the vehicle of prayer and of praise. Religious music, then, is the language of religious emotions. Through it we express the unspeakable desire of our hearts. But religion is not altogether made up of emotion. Our feelings are so unstable and so changeful that they have to be controlled by intellect. And as the most perfectly developed man is he who has developed both his feelings and his reason, who is neither the slave of sentiment on the one hand, nor the slave of logic on the other, so the worthiest way we have of expressing the deliberate yet passionate devotion of thankful hearts is neither by words alone nor by music alone, but by song, by perfect music wedded to noble words.

III. And this perhaps explains for us in some measure those mysterious pictures in the Revelation of St. John of the employments of the saints in heaven. Every faculty, every instinct of their glorified humanity they consecrate to God's glory. How does St. John describe their occupation? He sums it up as eternal praise. Music is the symbol of perfect consecration, the consecration of body and soul to the glory and praise of God. And as the best incentive to faithful service here is that love of God in redemption which was consummated in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the perpetual burden of the Anthem of Saints is, Worthy the Lamb that was slain!

J. H. Bernard, Via Domini, p. 294.

References. CL. 6. A. W. Hare, Alton Sermons, p. 371. H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iii. p. 276.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 150". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. 1910.