Edwards: Sing or sin

From a sermon by Jonathan Edwards on “Self-Examination”:

Examine yourselves, whether you do not live in some way of sin with respect to the institutions of God’s house. Here I shall mention several instances. . . .

(2) Do you not live in sin, in living in the neglect of singing God’s praises? If singing praises to God be an ordinance of God’s public worship, as doubtless it is, then it ought to be attended and performed by the whole worshipping assembly. If it be a command that we should worship God in this way, then all ought to obey this command, not only by joining with others in singing, but in singing themselves. For if we suppose it answers the command of God for us only to join in our hearts with others, it will run us into this absurdity, that all may do so; and then there would be none to sing, none for others to join with.

If it be an appointment of God, that Christian congregations should sing praises to him, then doubtless it is the duty of all; if there be no exception in the rule, then all ought to comply with it, unless they be incapable of it, or unless it would be a hindrance to the other work of God’s house. . . . But if persons be now not capable, because they know not how to sing, that doth not excuse them, unless they have been incapable of learning. As it is the command of God, that all should sing, so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing which cannot be decently performed at all without learning. Those, therefore, who neglect to learn to sing, live in sin, as they neglect what is necessary in order to their attending one of the ordinances of God’s worship.

Not only should persons make conscience of learning to sing themselves, but parents should conscientiously see to it, that their children are taught this among other things, as their education and instruction belong to them.

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