On Learning Hymns

---By Joseph Wang

We Christians have the privilege of possessing three treasures --- our spirit, the Bible, and hymns. In our daily walk we all may experience and testify its truthfulness. Of course, we should not evaluate hymns higher than the Bible. Nevertheless, hymns play an important role in our Christian life.

In my entire life I never had a chance to learn music, much less to play a musical instrument. Needless to say, I do not understand how to read musical notes one bit. Moreover, my heavy accent in my mother tongue makes it difficult for me to sing any hymn accurately and correctly. Nevertheless, I still like and enjoy singing hymns. I do not care much about whether my singing is in or out of tune, as long as I really enjoy it.

Confucius once told his disciples: "Why don't you learn 'The Book of Songs'? Songs arouse and stir you up, teach you to increase your ability of observation, train you to be more approachable and cooperative, and also provide for your complaint and critique skills. They also show you and guide you how to serve your parents at home and your king far away. Furthermore, you may even learn the names of many different birds, animals, vegetation and trees too." (This same saying had been quoted in one of my previous articles --- God's Creation.)

The first half of this Confucius' quotation seems to be quite simple, yet it is also broad and profound. In consequence, my translation here is somewhat of literal.

Although it was originally written concerning a particular Chinese Book of Songs, its principle can still be applied. I would like to expound and expand it to hymns and spiritual songs as follows.

Firstly, hymns arouse, inspire and stir you up:

1. They may encourage, strengthen, stimulate, renew, revive, vitalize and empower you in your daily walk according to God's will. You will thus enjoy living a healthy and happy life.
2. They may transfer you from sorrow into joy (John 16:20b), from hopelessness into the hope of glory (Col 1:27b), from negative unto positive, from darkness to light (Acts 26:18a), and out of death into life (John 5:24b).
3. They may lead you to love, enjoy and pursue the Lord in a deeper way.
4. They may enable you to be creative, inspire you, and give you revelations.
5. They may also help you in growth of life and in being constituted with truth.

Secondly, hymns would guide you to be a man of observation:

1. They may widen your view and uplift your vision, thus increasing your observational skills in both macroscopic and microscopic scales.
2. They may help you to see the deeper and hidden things, and not overlook any of the detailed and small things.
3. They may train you to have a spiritual discernment and proper insight.
4. They may cultivate, develop and sharpen your lofty sentiments.

Thirdly, hymns enable you to become approachable and cooperative:

1. Being approachable and cooperative are of prime importance in the church life as well as in the society today.
2. Hymns may help you to realize that you need to flock together, blend together and build up together. They may also lead you to coordinate with others and harmonize with others in the church life.
3. They may enable you to see the one body with many members and the inseparable and interdependent characteristics of the members.
4. They may help you to be kind to others, and willingly to take care of others. They may also lead you the proper way for gospel preaching, shepherding, teaching and perfecting others for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Fourthly, hymns provide the skill of complaint and critique:

1. Hymns may enable you to release your sentiments in a proper way, even in a righteous way.
2. Instead of reasoning, murmuring, or arguing, hymns may teach you to know and master the art of speaking and fellowship in spirit.
3. Through hymns you may learn how to pray to the Lord, fellowship with Him, 'tell Him' (Mark 5:33b), or be made known to Him (Phil 4:6b).
4. This kind of skill may equally be applied in the present society. No matter who you are, where you are, and what you are doing, you should not overlook this matter.

Fifthly, hymns may show and train you in serving:

1. Through hymns you may gain knowledge on how to serve the Lord and one another in the church life. Particularly, at the present together we all go forward according to God's ordained way, one essential point of which is that everyone serves and the whole body functions.
2. You may learn from hymns to serve your parents and your household, and to serve your superiors in the society. Thus, you may have a healthy and meaningful life.

Lastly, hymns may reveal to you God's creation, the wisdom of God, as well as the meaning of the philosophy of life. They make you to realize that oh, God is so great and His creation is so wonderful.

In conclusion, hymn may be written as a crystallization of certain truth, a sublimation of human sentiments, and adding glory to the art. Many good hymns are full of life and spirit. Generally speaking, hymns are beautiful and it is not overly boasting to say that they are a masterpiece in mankind. Let us all rise up to sing, learn, study and enjoy hymns, perhaps even to write our own hymns. Hallelujah! Praise Him!

POSTSCRIPT: It is hoped that this short essay would increase your interest towards hymns and through hymns you may love, know and enjoy the Lord more and more. It is also my sincere hope that dear readers, you would not get into the wrong idea of my introducing and connecting Confucius' saying here to hymns. I am not promoting anyone's words here, rather, I intend only to apply the classical saying to express and explain my realization and enjoyment towards hymns.

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