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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

2 Chronicles 5

Verses 13-14

DISCOURSE: 395
USE OF CHURCH MUSIC

2 Chronicles 5:13-14.5.14. It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.

EVERY duty which we owe to God is excellent in its season; nor is there any which is not peculiarly suitable for particular persons, and under particular circumstances. Repentance, prayer, attendance on the preached Gospel, are eminently proper, not for the ungodly alone, but for the saints also, whenever a sense of ignorance, guilt, or helplessness, call for such exercises. But the duty of praise seems to claim a just preference before all others, not only because it is more pleasant, and more comely for the upright, but because in all others we receive from God; whereas in this we give to God. Indeed God himself declares, that he is more especially honoured by the due performance of this duty; “Whoso offereth me praise, glorifieth me:” and in my text, he has given the most abundant testimony of its acceptableness to him.
Solomon having finished the temple, had now brought up the ark of the Lord, and placed it in the holy of holies;—he had also offered innumerable sacrifices on this glorious occasion; and, while he was praising God in concert with the priests and Levites, and an immense band of vocal and instrumental music, God came down into the temple, and filled it with his glory; “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters,” &c. &c.
In discoursing upon these words, we shall consider,

I.

The manner in which they praised God;

II.

The subject-matter of their praise;

III.

The token which God gave them of his approbation.

I.

Let us consider the manner in which they praised God—

Never since the creation of the world was there a more glorious display of religious zeal than at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. Solomon had assembled “the elders of Israel, even the heads of all the tribes, and the chief men in all the families of Israel, to Jerusalem.” He had collected also, not the priests of one particular course, but all the priests and all the Levites, to assist in this solemnity: and this vast concourse of people, after having deposited the ark in the place prepared for it, joined in praises and thanksgivings to God: they praised God, unitedly: we are told that “the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound.” It is much to be regretted, that, in our worshipping assemblies, the greater part of the congregation never join in this part of the service: they seem to think, that they are not interested in it, and that it may well be left to those few who may have studied music as a science. But would it not appear absurd in the highest degree, if the prayers also were left to a few select persons, and the bulk of the congregation were to sit still, as though they had no need to join in the devotions? And if this would be so evidently absurd in the one part of the service, why should it not be so in the other? All indeed are not alike qualified to join aloud; but there are very few who might not, by a little attention, easily qualify themselves to join in this act of worship; nor can there be any one who is not bound at least to exercise his mind, and “make melody in his heart to the Lord.” Indeed this is one great use of musical instruments in the public worship; they are serviceable to unite voices which might otherwise be discordant, and to help forward those, who through ignorance or diffidence might otherwise be silent. Therefore David, in the last Psalm, exhorts us to praise the Lord with stringed instruments and with organs; and well knowing how easy it would be with such helps to sing, he adds, “Let every thing that hath breath, praise the Lord.”

We must not however imagine, that the mere lifting up of the voice is a sacrifice pleasing to God: no; he requires the service of the heart: and therefore we observe, in the next place, that they praised God devoutly.

It is said, in my text, that the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound “in praising and thanking the Lord.”
We know, that the uttering of a prayer without any sense of our need, or any desire of the things we ask for, is no other than a solemn mockery, which is in the highest degree displeasing to God: so the singing of psalms and hymns without any sense of joy and gratitude, is a hypocritical service, and wholly unacceptable to God: we may indeed please the congregation, and establish our own reputation for skill; but these are very unworthy motives to be influenced by, when we are solemnly addressing the Most High God: persons actuated by such considerations sing to their own praise and glory, rather than to God’s; and therefore they must rest satisfied with their reward, i. e. the reward they seek after; for it is certain that they will never receive any testimony of God’s approbation. Let me therefore remind you all, that the end of singing is to thank and praise the Lord; and that, whenever we join in psalms and hymns, we must be especially careful that we “make melody in our hearts to the Lord.” In this we shall be greatly assisted by a judicious use of instrumental music;—which leads me to observe further, that the Jewish assembly praised God with instruments of music.

Many are prejudiced against church music; and it is certain, that it is capable of very great abuse: but it may also be employed to great advantage: it is said in my text, that they lifted up their voices with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music. Who can doubt but that the devotion of the congregation was greatly aided by these? Who can doubt, but that if Solomon, the wisest of men, at the most solemn season imaginable, not only used these instruments, but (as we shall have occasion presently to observe) was approved of God in the use of them, who can doubt, I say, but that they may be used to great advantage? As far indeed as they contributed to the pomp and grandeur of the temple worship, they may well be dispensed with under the Christian dispensation; since the excellence of the Gospel worship consists in its simplicity, in which respect it is directly opposite to the Jewish worship: but, inasmuch as it aided the devotion, its utility remains: and, I trust, that in a little time we shall find that effect arising from it.
In order to this, however, we must learn to distinguish between the natural effect of music on the organs of sense, and the spiritual effect of divine truths upon the soul. Those who attend only to the sound may experience the former; but to experience the latter, we must attend simply to the words we sing. We shall sing to little purpose “with the voice, if we sing not with our understanding also.” To promote this, I proceed to set before you,

II.

The subject-matter of their praise—

A sense of the divine goodness and mercy was that which inflamed their souls. David had before recorded, in Psalms 136., the goodness of God, in his works of creation, providence, and redemption; and no less than twenty-six times in as many verses had he repeated that delightful truth, that “the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever.” In all probability that Psalm was now used by Solomon’s appointment; so that with the commemoration of every fresh act of mercy, the whole band united in singing, “For the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” The grand subject therefore of their praise was, the goodness and mercy of God. And what abundant ground was here for praise! Who that surveys the wonders of creation, must not see the goodness of God stamped indelibly on every part of the universe? Who that sees the sun, ruling by day, and the moon and stars, ruling by night; who that sees this terrestrial globe furnished with every thing which can contribute to the happiness both of the rational and irrational creation; who that observes the variety and the beauty of God’s works, the fitness of every creature for its use, the subordination of one creature to another, and the joint concurrence of all to one common end; who that observes the fabric of the human body, that is so fearfully and wonderfully made, or reflects on the powers of the soul, which can in an instant soar from earth to heaven, and there contemplate not the heavenly bodies only, but even the Maker of them; who, I say, can view any part of the creation, and not exclaim with the Psalmist, “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all his works?” Nor does his goodness less appear in the works of Providence: David, in the Psalm we have referred to, recounts most of the gracious acts which God had performed towards the Jewish nation from the first bringing of them out of Egypt to the time he penned that Psalm: those were no doubt recited with joy and gladness. And may not we also look back through the annals of our history, and see how often God has preserved us from our enemies, how he has prospered our nation in ten thousand instances, and how he is yet protecting us from foreign invasion and domestic tumults? Do we not see how good he is to us in making the earth to bring forth plenteously, and in providing for all our returning wants? May not every individual amongst us too trace the peculiar kindness of Providence to himself, in averting ills, or overruling them for good? Surely we have all experienced enough of God’s goodness to make us joyfully unite in songs of praise. But most of all is the goodness of God conspicuous in the work of redemption: this the Psalmist notices particularly, though indeed in but few words. The Jews fixed their attention more on the typical redemptions: but now that the shadows are removed, and the substance is set before us, we should survey the redemption of Christ with incessant wonder. Behold the goodness of God in giving us his only Son; in laying our iniquities on him; and in opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers! Behold him satisfying his own justice by the sufferings of his Son, and opening a way for the exercise of his mercy towards us consistently with his other perfections! This is the wonder; this is the bright display of goodness; this is the subject-matter of thanksgiving, to all the saints on earth, and all the saints in heaven. O that every tongue might pay its tribute of praise! and that we might all with united hearts and voices proclaim, that “the Lord is good!”

A further subject of their praise was the mercy of God, “His mercy endureth for ever.” How eminently did this appear in God’s dealings with the Jewish nation! for, notwithstanding all their murmurings and rebellions in the wilderness, he brought them into the land which he had promised them: and in due time he raised up his servant David, to whom he had confirmed all the promises which he had made unto the patriarchs; and now at last he had in a figure taken possession of the temple of Solomon, as a typical representation of his future dwelling in the temple of Christ’s body. These were proofs of the perpetuity of God’s mercy, and that he would not withdraw it from those to whom he had promised it. But here again we survey his mercy in far brighter colours: we see indeed that it endureth for ever: we have seen the mercy promised to our fathers long since performed: we have seen the Son of God, the Saviour of the world; we have seen him living, dying, rising, and resuming his throne of glory: we have seen him making an end of sin, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness; and now we behold him pouring out all the blessings of redemption on his Church and people. At this moment is his mercy as full and free as at the time he died upon the cross: at this instant do his bowels yearn over sinners: he invites them all, and importunes them to accept his proffered salvation: and to those who have tasted of his mercy he still continues to be gracious: he keepeth mercy for thousands, when they would cast it utterly away: he does not in anger shut up his tender mercies: he will chastise, but not cast off: he will “hide his face for a little moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us.”

Such was the subject-matter of their praise: and shall our tongues be silent? Have we not incomparably greater cause for thanksgiving than the Jews were even able to conceive? Let the praises of God then be in our lips; and let us unite our hearts and voices in declaring the goodness and mercy of our God.

Were this more the frame of our hearts, surely we should find God more frequently present in our worshipping assemblies; for he would certainly never leave us without “witness that we pleased him.”
This brings us to consider,

III.

The testimony which God gave them of his approbation—

God had often vouchsafed to appear in a visible manner to his people: he went before them in a cloud through the wilderness, and conducted them in all their journeys: and, when Moses had finished the tabernacle according to the direction given him by God, it pleased God to give him a signal token of his presence and approbation. In Exodus 40:34-2.40.35, it is said, “Then (when Moses had finished the work) a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle: and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exactly similar to this was the testimony which God now gave of his approbation, both to Solomon and all the assembly: “he came down in a cloud, and filled the house with his glory, so that the priests could not stand to minister there any longer.”

This cloud was the Shechinah, or symbol of the divine presence: and its coming down, and filling the place at that time, was a signal manifestation of the divine favour. This shadowy representation of the Deity was suited to that dispensation, wherein every thing was wrapped up in obscure types and shadows: it was calculated to strike their senses, and impress them with reverence for God; while, at the same time, the effect which it produced upon the priests served to intimate, that, when Christ should come, and the Deity truly appear in the temple of Christ’s body, the priests should cease to minister in their former manner, and the whole of that dispensation should be done away.
It is particularly proper on this occasion to notice the exact time when God was pleased to vouchsafe this remarkable testimony of his approbation. If we look to the text, we shall see that it was not when the sacrifices were offered, nor even when the ark was deposited in its place; but it was when the singers and the players on the musical instruments joined in one grand chorus of praise and thanksgiving: “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever; that then the house was filled with a cloud.” We cannot doubt but that God approved of every part of this grand ceremony: but that which crowned the whole was, the tribute of praise offered by the chorus of vocal and instrumental music. We have before observed, that this, without the heart, would be a vain offering indeed: but, with the heart, no doubt it is pleasing and acceptable to God in the highest degree: it comes as near as possible to the worship of heaven, where, in one grand concert, they strike their golden harps, and sing, “Salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever!” In Revelation 14:1-66.14.3, St. John beheld in a vision the glorious company of heaven; and he says, “I looked, and, lo! a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father’s name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps; and they sung as it were a new song before the throne.” Shall not we therefore endeavour to anticipate that blessed employment? shall not we strive to bring down heaven upon earth? shall not we from henceforth lift up our voices unto God, and every one be ambitious to join as in one general chorus? Yes, my Brethren, let me hope that many of you will unite your endeavours: call to mind the goodness of your God; think of his manifold and never-ending mercies; think of Jesus the fountain and foundation of all your blessings; stir up your hearts to gratitude; let not one be silent;—and while we are united in singing the high praises of our God, may God himself come down in the midst of us, and fill the house with his glory! Amen, and Amen I


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 5". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/2-chronicles-5.html. 1832.