Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:13
Sound words have a form, an exemplary pattern, a typification by which their nature is determined; and it is neither a literary nor auditory matter. Truly, their form is the state of the man from whence they proceed, even as a good mould brings forth a shapely moulding. Therefore the Lord said that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
The words of a good form are the fruit of the “faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” And this form is not seen in a mere tone of voice or manner of presentation, but in the condition of the soul who speaks. For the heart abounding in deceit may speak well outwardly; but inwardly be full of wicked schemes. Conversely, the heart abounding in goodness may speak poorly outwardly; but inwardly be being filled with the knowledge and love of the holy.
And the words of a man, no matter the carefulness or roughness of their delivery, are yet always laced with either the presumptuous stench of self-deceit, or with the earnest aroma of Christ; and by the Spirit of wisdom, these can be known to the hearer. To this end, the man of God, in order to hold fast the form of sound words, must make himself subject to the form of Christ’s sound Life.
For the form of sound words IS the Life of Christ in a man; and the holding fast to that form of sound words is what holds a man sound in God, and God’s word sound in him.
Then Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
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. **
The immensity and depth of the anointing into which the Holy Spirit longs to baptize God’s children is such that words too holy to be spoken, songs too holy to be sung, and deeds to holy to be done might yet be able to become spoken and sung and done through we as His broken vessels – if we only will allow ourselves to be so shattered by His revelation to us. He would put a new song in our mouths, if only we stopped using them to make excuses.
“Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; impalpable and impassible, yet who became passible on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.”
– Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to Polycarp
Truth by its very nature warrants no apology, and true love is therefore never a bedfellow of compromise; for true divine love has in it the love of truth, as it is the very love of He who is the Truth at work in our hearts.
Only the one enlightened of God’s will truly knows His Love; and only the one truly loving God’s Person will rightly know His Truth. Only the uncompromising lover of God’s Truth can be truly uncompromising in the expressing His Love; and in that expression is discovered greater depths of His Truth.
For these both are Christ, and are of the Spirit of Christ; and He is not divided.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the law being powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 (LITV)
A man cannot overemphasize his total inability to please God in and of himself; but there are those who struggle to obey God because they overshadow the cross of Christ with the ruinous heap of their recurring sins. This in itself is actually a fleshly self-centeredness, it is a faithless sin to be repented of in view of God’s mercy. For if one fears and delights in the Lord, including the sufficiency of His work and a trusting in His desire to continue it, then that same one delights in nothing less than the glory of God’s Name; and to obey the Lord then becomes a joy despite one’s existing shortcomings.
Only by this does one draw near to God in such a way that his personal faults and long-entrenched sins can be overcome in the Lord’s ever-nearer presence; for this honors the Holy Spirit and invites His power. But when our obedience is about ourselves, and not all about the Lord of Glory, then it is not true obedience anyways, and will ironically benefit us nothing. The Lord calls us not to the limit of our means, but far beyond, where we have no means but He Himself. The fruit of the Spirit is not invoked by the striving of the flesh.
For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not subject to the law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, this one is not His.
Romans 8:5-9 (LITV)
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.
Once His illuminating work has found a footing in His creation, there is a new depth of division which the Word of God brings forth in it. On the first day of creation, we see the Spirit of God brooding over the surface of the waters – and we might even say striving and groaning for the creation to manifest the form which He intends for it. So it is with ourselves in Christ.
Our Potter begins with a lump of clay, formless and void, under darkness. There is depth of water, yet not a revealed purpose for it: not a river to flow in, not a sun to reflect majesty. Then there is light. And in His light, we shall now truly see light, and more still. For not only have waters once darkened and obscured in a mass of mixture now been exposed by the pure light of God Himself, but the Spirit which once hovered over them now sends His rays into the depths by the word of God’s mouth unto to the dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It is here in the continued shining of His light that the dividing of waters from waters begins to take place. Here, not only is discerned light and darkness upon the suface of the creature; but now more importantly even the depths within this new creation are spiritually discerned.
Natural men are not comfortable with such discernment: they want neither to discern nor to be discerned. Both edges of that sword are equally inconvenient to man’s facáde of peace with God. But the true peace of God is holy, so that the same word of the Lord which creates whatever is good also by necessity divides the good from whatever is contrary. Therefore, if we shall maintain and grow in the peace of God, we must submit ourselves to the more unpleasant surgeries of our Great Physician. Those without the faithful wounds of His word are not His friends. But those who have truly walked in some degree of God’s light are quickly confronted with the revelation of the great expanse between their own waters and His waters resident within this new creation.
And God called the expanse “Heavens” (plural in the Greek, ie: the skies).And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
His pure waters must be discerned from our own waters lest we deceive ourselves in every matter: this is why He divides them by His word, “let there be an expanse;” therefore we find a distinct choice to either walk after the flesh (our waters) or after the Spirit (His waters). But those who are not divided by His word are filled with mixture, for there is no sword of division within them to so judge between what is of God and what is of self. The separation of waters is a confirmation of His work in us.
The separation of these waters is discernment for the conscience. Here we discover all the more “the exceeding sinfulness of sin;” for in the seperation of His waters, by which our sense of holiness increases, our conscience of sin is thereby sharpened. We find the depth within us of law of sin and death we must daily contend with: the gravity by which our own waters remain bound to earth. Conversely, His waters within us are unbound, above the expanse of the heavens; but of our own strength we are unable to access their invaluable resources. It becomes increasingly obvious that there are greater depths of Him with which our present depths cry out to meet; and we begin to see how much higher above our ways and thoughts are His own, “even as the heavens are higher than the earth.” We long to plunge into His waters, to live out of His fountain rather than our own – that His wellspring of eternal life would become our own in Him, that the voice of HIS many waters would be the sound poured out through each of His own.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of YOUR waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone overme.
We must discover in our present earthly experience that glorious Law of the Spirit of Life which makes us free from the law of sin and death. It is here in the revelation of the divided waters that obedience becomes of particular importance to the new creature; for by the drawing up of God’s waters above its own, the creature has begun to sense its great need to follow the upward draw of Lord’s current in order to remain flowing in it. The call unto His own ever remains, “Come up hither.” The new creature which submits itself to the word continues discovering the evidence of even greater depths in God far above its present experiential knowledge; thirsting always to drink deeper of that eternal spring so that even the waters of earth below might be made conformable to the word of His mouth, “Peace, be still.”