Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Worship, Music and the Reformed Experience

One of the greatest things about being a Christian is the experience of Worship through Music.

My own personal experience with music is very profound, and the role of music in my personal sanctification process is quite significant. Music and sanctification, "I have never heard these two things put together in the same sentence" one might say. Well, I contend that seeing the sanctifying role of the experience of music and worship is important to understanding the reformed understanding of sanctification, especially the Edwardsian view of sanctification.

Jonathan Edwards has been called the greatest mind America ever produced by such men as the good doctor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and by one of the reformed world's favorite modern teacher-preacher, John Piper. To understand the theology of this great American thinker, it is important to understand his experience, his story.

Edward's Story of Personal Sanctification - His Method
It is said that Edwards would spend up to 17 hours in his study every day. if one were to read his journal he constantly says things like, "my being was filled with the knowledge of His excellencies today. I was brought low by my own sin but His grace was shown all the more bright in my eyes".

Here is a quote from Edward's journal(I will find more later):
"Tuesday, Jan. 8.
In the morning, had higher thoughts than usual of the excellency of Christ, and felt an unusual repentance of sin therefrom.
Wednesday, Jan. 9.
At night. Decayed. I am sometimes apt to think, that I have a great deal more of holiness than I really have. I find now and then that abominable corruption, which is directly contrary to what I read of eminent Christians. I do not seem to be half so careful to improve time, to do every thing quick, and in as short a time as I possibly can, nor to be perpetually engaged to think about religion, as I was yesterday and the day before, nor indeed as I have been at certain times, perhaps a twelvemonth ago. If my resolutions of that nature, from that time, had always been kept alive and awake, how much better might I have been than I now am! How deceitful is my heart! I take up a strong resolution, but how soon doth it weaken!

From the Journal of David Brainerd, compiled by Edwards:
”Saturday, Nov. 27.
Committed my soul to God with some degree of comfort; left New York about nine in the morning; came away with a distressing sense still of my unspeakable unworthiness. Surely I may well love all my brethren; for none of them all is so vile as I; whatever they do outwardly, yet it seems to me none is conscious of so much guilt before God. Oh my leanness, my barrenness, my carnality, and past bitterness, and want of a gospel-temper! These things oppress my soul. Rode from New York, thirty miles, to White Plains, and most of the way continued lifting up my heart to God for mercy and purifying grace: and spent the evening much dejected in spirit.”The three next days he continued in this frame, in a great sense of his own vileness, with an evident mixture of melancholy, in no small degree; but had some intervals of comfort, and God’s sensible presence with him.
“Wednesday, Dec. 1.
My soul breathed after God, in sweet spiritual and longing desires of conformity to him; my soul was brought to rest itself and all on his rich grace, and felt strength and encouragement to do or suffer any thing that Divine Providence should allot me. Rode about twenty miles from Stratfield to Newton.”

Notice the continued contemplation and the focus of the mind on a single thought for a number of days. Edwards says he made a resolution but over the last few days he has not been able to keep it. He is accutely aware of his heart and his behaviors. This life of abiding contemplation on the relationship between an idea and one's behavior and sense of peace etc is how good theology is made. Good practical experimental theology of the soul that is.

It is said that it takes 30 minutes to preach a sermon and 30 years to prepare one. The deep contemplation of the state of one's soul and the clarity of one's affections as it relates to the truth of the gospel is the contemplation of the practical theologian. Edwards was not concerned with whether something was logically true only, but whether his soul was sanctified by the reality of his beliefs and understanding. If the scripture says, all things work together for good, and yet I am anxious. Then, the good pastor waits on the Lord to make the truth of the scriptural claim to God's sovereignty a cleansing word TO HIS OWN SOULS. If we are not at peace, how are we to truly understand the peace-making work of the prince of peace. No, first the good theologian must have his theology do a sanctifying work in himself. Then, he can preach to others.

This is the reformed revivalists method of which Edwards is the chief.

How does this contemplative life relate to music?
Music is intended to do two things: 1) Focus the mind on a given truth and draw the mind into that truth through a music form which parallels the idea to be contemplated. Can you say music is a spiritual discipline. 2) Music is often used in the church to accomplish #1 above in the corporate setting. So this morning I sang,

"My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand..."

"His oath His covenant His blood supports me in the whelming flood. When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand..."

"When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may my soul in Him be found, dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand...faultless to stand .. faultless to stand .. before the throne. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand..."

Here through music, the contemplation of "all things working together for good" is focused on and the mind and all the affections can be centered on the reality of our security in our relationship with God.

To do this well takes a long time. In fact, Edwards and Brainerd would have thought long and hard on these ideas. I use music, and, often, I find myslef for hours on end playing one song over and over and over again until my affections are at perfect alignment with the reality of God and His Word.

Here in lies the path to Good Reformed Theology.
Tomorrow's post: A Look at Jonathan Edwards 70 Resolutions and His method of Sanctification

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