Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Singing and making melody with your heart

This is another children's sermon delivered by my great-uncle, A.J.C. Bond, while he was pastor of the Plainfield, NJ, Seventh Day Baptist church in the 1920s during Prohibition to which he makes reference. It was published in a collection, When I Was A Boy, in 1928. Part of my interest, of course, is very personal — he makes reference to relatives of whom I was told but never had the opportunity to meet.

Speaking to Yourselves in Song
Speaking one to another [or to yourselves] in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.—Ephesians 5:19.

YOU have heard me tell about my uncle who used to lead the singing in the little church where I grew up. He not only led the music in the church, but he got the whole community interested in singing. I remember one time when church choirs from other communities came to our little church and had an all day sing. And it was my Uncle John Hevener who brought them together.

Well, this same uncle was my Sabbath school teacher, and he was talking to us one Sabbath day about music and what a blessing it is. He said he was not afraid to meet any man in the road who was whistling.

Those were the days of the saloon, and there was a saloon in the village of Roanoke. A saloon was a place where they used to sell whiskey just as people do groceries. There were some lonely places between our home and the village, and I used to be afraid I would meet a drunken man. That was the only thing I was afraid of when I had to go to the store. Sometimes men would be glum and sour, and they were really dangerous. But if a man was whistling, it was a pretty good sign that he was in a good humor, and one need not be afraid of him. When one rides along a lonely road whistling or humming, he must be speaking to himself, making melody in his heart.

I can remember how my father used to whistle when at his work. He used to make boots, and it gave me a "comfy" feeling when playing about the shop to hear him softly whistling. He, didn't exactly whistle out loud. His whistling was to regular whistling what humming is to singing.

Then my mother used to hum while about her work, too. And often she would sing. That, too, gave me a good feeling, for then I knew all was going well, and mother was happy.

I remember one night when mother woke me up, way in the night, singing. That was not because she was happy, but it was because she was good and brave and because my brother, her eldest son who was dying, asked her to sing. We all got up pretty soon, and before the morning dawned my brother had gone away and left us. I am sure mother's song helped him as he entered the spirit world. I have often thought since how clear mother's voice sounded and how brave she was to sing when Lloyd asked her to, and how much love was in her song.

In our text we are asked to speak one with another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. How much cheer we can bring to other lives by our singing. The text seems also to say, "Speak to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Our hymns and songs will be most helpful to others if we can sing with our hearts. Some of us can not sing with our voices, but all can sing with our hearts.

I know a good man who never sings with his voice. I never heard him try it. But he always has the hymn book open when others sing, and I am sure is making melody in his heart. When opportunity has been given I have heard him select a hymn; and when others have sung it I know he was singing it in his heart.

I know another man who has a singing heart but who can not sing with his voice. He got some hymns on Victrola records, and of an evening he will put one of these hymns on the Victrola and will follow not only the words but the tones. I believe that is the nearest he ever comes to singing with his voice. But oh, how he sings in his heart! I love to be with him and enjoy the melody of his happy heart and the joy of his wholesome life.

You can sing both with your hearts and voices. Cultivate the music of your hearts, that is, be pure and good and kind, and then when you sing with your voices you will be able to make others happy and to make them want to be helpful and good.
Rev. Ahva J.C. Bond, When I Was A Boy, American Sabbath Tract Society, Plainfield, NJ, 1928, pp. 79-81.

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