Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.
I have read His fiery gospel writ in rows of burnished steel!
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you My grace shall deal!
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,”
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him; be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free!
While God is marching on.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
A comparison of four classical composers, with observations on how their music either helps uplift the soul to God, or draws the mind down to wallow in the things below.
1 – Johann Sebastian Bach: The Harmony Of Logos
Examples of Bach:
Brandenberg Concerto No.3:
Bach’s beautiful choral arrangement of the Lutheran hymn “By The Rivers Of Babylon”(“An Wasserflüssen Babylon”):
Toccata & Fugue:
Bach’s music describes in vivid sonic detail the reality of God’s divine order and eternal truth. There is seemingly no phrase or note in his music not written to this one end; all has distinct purpose. There is no waste; and everything is addressed in a most dignified manner. In Bach’s music, the Light is spoken of with awe and reverence; and the darkness is spoken of within the context of God’s mastery over all. There is pure joy in the Lord, with nothing trite or frivolous. There is pure fear of the Lord, with no hint of despair. There is no glorying in man’s thoughts or strength; but much rather in God’s wisdom and power.
Bach is (among other things) the great exegete of the keyboard, and his extensive repertoire lays out for us, as it were, the divinely appointed boundaries of every note’s potential use in relation to another, with every measure of his many compositions effortlessly reflecting his own remark that “harmony is close to Godliness”. There is no flirtation with musical subversion or mindless dissonance; and the occasional unusual sound is employed only to serve the well-being of the hearer as far as it reflects the realities of God’s truth within the created order of the music.
“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach
How well indeed did his music fulfill that saying! | |
2 – George Frideric Handel: The Sound Of Majesty
Examples of Handel:
Overture, from Messiah:
Comfort Ye My People, from Messiah:
Overture, from Alexander’s Feast of the Power of Music:
A contemporary and fellow countryman of Bach (though they never met), Handel’s music is hewn from the same substance, with an ever-present consciousness of honoring God’s glory. There is always a sense of divine majesty in his compositions, by which the sensitive hearer is at times made to feel that they tread on holy ground – and this without either pretension or any sense of overbearing forcefulness on the part of the music: it simply speaks for itself when played, as truth always does when uttered.
The instrumentation alone in his famous work “Messiah” can easily take one into the very holy of holies if the soul is prepared to heed its call; and the accompaniment of prophetic scriptures borne upon its heavenly melodies carries an anointing unparalleled in most hymnody. There is often a hush of awe which falls upon even the most secular of audiences when these pieces are performed in succession. That particular work was reported to have been written by Handel in the course of approximately 30 days (in its base form, without many of the large choral parts – still an astounding feat). | |
3 – Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Self-Interest Of Man
Examples of Beethoven:
Piano Concerto No.1 – Allegro Con Brio:
Cello Sonata No.3 in A Major:
Beethoven’s music still lives within the world of reality and truth, but it often does very little to consciously acknowledge such. There is still an adherence to the orderliness and natural beauty of things; but the element of divine authority is replaced with a largely unanswered search for meaning. Vast portions of his compositions are dedicated to meander through the deep woods of a lonesomely reasoning mind; and their occasional discoveries, though useful, are usually not revelatory. There is natural light, but always the bright sun is hidden behind a blanket of cloud; and the divine is so distant that it need not be directly spoken of.
In Beethoven the transcendent is lost to long rabbit trails of thought, and, at times, impulsive little adventures in melody. Not that anything is ever objectionable to the hearing – there is still a clear appreciation for beauty – yet it is limited to created beauty, and seemingly not the Creator Himself. Beethoven does eventually come to an appropriately resolved end in his compositions; but we are usually left wondering what ultimate reason there was for much of the journey. There is a distinct sense of spiritual unfulfullment despite the typical excellency of his musical form.
One always remembers the feeling of Beethoven’s music; but only a few of his pieces leave a definite impression – and even where they do, all of his music is strongly laced with the sighing melancholy of humanism’s emptiness. Even where he breaks through his troubles into a happy theme, it is always with a certain dullness of heart. Even if the light is brilliant without, it is as though the eyesight remains dim from within. Any soul not lulled to a certain numbness by much of his music is left wanting for a warmth and wholeness that was not granted; and who now shall sing to that soul of the brighter Day? | |
4 – Richard Wagner: The Madness Of Devils
Examples of Wagner:
Prelude of “Tristan und Isolde” – which has been cited by some as an early inspiration to Nietzsche’s trajectory of thought.* It is a daunting and tiresome listen:
The Ride of the Valkyries – known to often evoke in men a heightened desire for war and pointless worldly conquest:
Much of Wagner’s music (particularly as heard above) is the expression of the subversive amoral philosophy of will-to-power. There is no reality or truth there except whatever the soul desires to conquer and call its own. As an excellent example of this Satanic mindset, the starting notes of “The Ride Of The Valkyries” sound perfectly like the arousal of jealousy; and the ensuing journey is one of a constant blowing about in the swirling winds of the growing lust for power, which is the only meaning in this nihilistic worldview.
Therefore, its end is wanting of any real wholesome resolve; and throughout, the key signature changes frequently, but not often to a wholly related key. Its sense of mounting triumph has no source outside of what it has accomplished in itself by sheer will: the transcendent is drowned out completely by self-glory. At last, it crashes to an end after a swift tumble into darkness, having left the listener’s heart in great alarm. And after its echoes die off in the ears, one is left with no new thing to contemplate, no melody by which the soul is given a path toward the Logos of God. The divine is utterly cut off; the soul (if it has trusted the music) is left open to the first thought or spirit that may seek to lead it astray.
It is also worth noting that this Wagner, the composer, was a great personal influence upon Nietzsche, the philosopher; and a hefty portion of Wagner’s music certainly does seem to subvert divine order, just as the philosophy of that madman, leaving in its wake the chaotic void into which he himself no doubt gazed. | |
There hasn’t been a time since the fall of man when music was not a battleground for men’s souls. | |
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
*For some additional interesting information on this subject matter, listen to this interview which I came across recently. He lays out the history of the subversion of music in the late classical era quite well, and particularly touches upon the relationship between Wagner and Nietzsche. | |
** I do not own any of the music or audio used in this post; it is herein used for reviewing purposes only. **
Here are the words of one of Job’s three foolish friends. They are the words of a man led astray, thinking to counsel rightly; when truly he speaks according to a demonic message which he received:
“Now a word was brought to me stealthily; my ear received the whisper of it. Amid thoughts from visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, dread came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. A spirit glided past my face; the hair of my flesh stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice: ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker? Even in His servants He puts no trust, and His angels He charges with error; how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed like the moth. Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces; they perish forever without anyone regarding it. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them, do they not die, and that without wisdom?’
Job 4:12-21 (ESV)
This is a chillingly familiar experience to many people in our own day. We live in a time dominated by this spirit – and it particularly targets the children of God. It works to crush all hope in the possibility that “a man can be in the right before God,” or “be pure before his Maker.” It works to undermine all trust in God on the part of His servants, by accusing the all-knowing God of evil suspicion, saying, “even in His servants He puts no trust…” And it even tries to excuse its own rebellion as the fault of the Most High: “His angels He charges with error…”
There sat Job: penniless, comfortless, and sickly; and here came the void to swallow him whole by utter despair. It is a spirit which causes men an empty dread, “…and trembling, which made all my bones shake.” Its appearance could not be discerned, just like the nothingness into which it drives men. And it blames God for the very meaningless existence that it is truly the purveyor of, saying, “Between morning and evening they (men) are beaten to pieces; they perish forever without anyone regarding it. Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them, do they not die, and that without wisdom?”
This is not the Spirit of the Living God: for He is not a spirit of such fear; “but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.”
But those who do not quickly shun and rebuke this spirit of despair in their own lives are left to gradually accept the slow descent into spiritual apathy and compromise; until they come to embrace it as the very wisdom of God, the gospel truth, and refuse to overcome its stranglehold upon them, returning to God nothing upon the investment He made in them. It is the strongman of vices beyond number: it is the invisible pressure which suffocates us from the breath of God, it is the filth of the world which smothers our hearts with callousness; and its only bane is HE WHO IS IN YOU.
That unchaste spirit; that bearer of treacherous tales, whose council is a field of snares, whose words are the undoing of faith: that burdener of the good conscience, that tormentor of the upright soul.
May she and her children find no pleasure in her works; for what she has whispered in the dark will be published in the light, and the despairing cry of many righteous will be turned into shouts of victory. Our eyes will only behold the God of our Hope, and our ears will only delight in the words of HIS mouth.
The wagging of her tongue will no longer be considered, and the poison of her lips will no longer find an audience among us; but the Lord Himself will cause her to be cast out from the hearts of the pure, and her exposure will be an astonishment to many. They will say, “Is this she, whose sorceries troubled us, whose threatenings made us tremble and fear?”
When no man heeds her, all of her sorceries are in vain, and all of her threatenings fall to the ground empty. When all the righteous become as one holy city fearing the Lord, she will not be able to enter its gates, nor go into the houses of its noblemen. But the bed of her seductions will be placed in the open field, and the shameful who leave the city to lie with her will be clearly seen.
In reaping she is devoured by the uncleanness which she has sown, and with the unclean her name will be blotted out from all memory. Her fall will be mocked from on high, and her destruction laughed at from the throne of heaven. Then the Lord’s fury will overtake her with those whom she seduced, and none shall mourn her passing.
Let not your heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she has cast down many wounded: indeed, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.