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EPHESIANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 19

Verse 19. Speaking to yourselves. Speaking among yourselves, that is, endeavouring to edify one another, and to promote purity of heart by songs of praise. This has the force of a command, and it is a matter of obligation on Christians. From the beginning, praise was an important part of public worship, and is designed to be to the end of the world. See Barnes "1 Co 14:16".

Nothing is more clear than that it was practised by the Saviour himself and the apostles, Mt 26:30, and by the primitive church, as well as by the great body of Christians in all ages.

In psalms. The Psalms of David were sung by the Jews at the temple, and by the early Christians, See Barnes "Mt 26:30, and the singing of those Psalms has constituted a delightful part of public worship in all ages. They speak the language of devotion at all times, and a large part of them are as well fitted to the services of the sanctuary now as they were when first composed.

And hymns. It is not easy to determine precisely what is the difference in the meaning of the words here used, or to designate the kind of compositions which were used in the early churches. A hymn is properly a song or ode in honour of God. Among the heathen it was a song in honour of some deity. With us now it denotes a short poem, composed for religious service, and sung in praise to God. Such brief poems were common among the heathen, and it was natural that Christians should early introduce and adopt them. Whether any of them were composed by the apostles it is impossible now to determine, though the presumption is very strong that, if they had been, they would have been preserved with as much care as their epistles, or as the Psalms. One thing is proved clearly by this passage, that there were other compositions used in the praise of God than the Psalms of David; and if it was right then to make use of such compositions, it is now. They were not merely "psalms" that were sung, but there were hymns and odes.

Spiritual songs. Spiritual odeswdaiv. Odes or songs relating to spiritual things in contradistinction from those which were sung in places of festivity and revelry. An ode is properly a short poem or song adapted to be set to music, or to be sung; a lyric poem. In what way these were sung it is now vain to conjecture. Whether with or without instrumental accompaniment; whether by a choir or by the assembly; whether by an individual only, or whether they were by responses, it is not possible to decide from anything in the New Testament. It is probable that it would be done in the most simple manner possible. Yet, as music constituted so important a part of the worship of the temple, it is evident that the early Christians would be by no means indifferent to the nature of the music which they had in their churches. And as it was so important a part of the worship of the heathen gods, and contributed so much to maintain the influence of heathenism, it is not unlikely that the early Christians would feel the importance of making their music attractive, and of making it tributary to the support of religion. If there is attractive music at the banquet and in the theatre, contributing to the maintenance of amusements where God is forgotten, assuredly the music of the sanctuary should not be such as to disgust those of pure and refined taste.

Singing. adontev. The prevailing character of music in the worship of God should be vocal. If instruments are employed. they should be so subordinate that the service maybe characterized as singing.

And making melody. Melody is an agreeable succession of sounds; a succession so regulated and modulated as to please the ear. It differs from harmony, inasmuch as melody is an agreeable succession of sounds by a single voice; harmony consists in the accordance of different sounds. It is not certain, however, that the apostle here had reference to what is properly called melody. The word which he uses—qallw means to touch, twitch, pluck as the hair, the beard; and then to twitch a string—to twang it —as the string of a bow, and then the string of an instrument of music. It is most frequently used in the sense of touching or playing a lyre, or a harp; and then it denotes to make music in general, to sing—perhaps usually with the idea of being accompanied with a lyre or harp. It is used, in the New Testament, only in Ro 15:9; 1 Co 14:15, where it is translated sing; in Jas 5:13, where it is rendered sing psalms, and in the place before us. The idea here is that of singing in the heart, or praising God from the heart. The psalms, and hymns, and songs were to be sung so that the heart should be engaged, and not so as to be mere music, or a mere external performance. On the phrase "in the heart," See Barnes "1 Co 14:15".


To the Lord. In praise of the Lord, or addressed to him. Singing, as here meant, is a direct and solemn act of worship, and should be considered such as really as prayer. In singing we should regard ourselves as speaking directly to God, and the words, therefore, should be spoken with a solemnity and awe becoming such a direct address to the great JEHOVAH. So Pliny says of the early Christians, Carmenque Christo quasi Dee dicere secure invieem—" and they sang among themselves hymns to Christ as God." If this be the true nature and design of public psalmody, then it follows

(1.) that all should regard it as an act of solemn worship in which they should engage—in heart at least, if they cannot themselves sing.

(2.) Public psalmody should not be entrusted wholly to the light and gay —to the trifling and careless part of a congregation.

(3.) They who conduct this part of public worship ought to be pious. The leader ought to be a Christian; and they who join in it ought also to give their hearts to the Redeemer. Perhaps it would not be proper to say absolutely that no one who is not a professor of religion should take part in the exercises of a choir in a church; but there can be no error in saying that such persons ought to give themselves to Christ, and to sing from the heart. Their voices would be none the less sweet; their music no less pure and beautiful; nor could their own pleasure in the service be lessened. A choir of sweet singers in a church— united in the same praises here—ought to be prepared to join in the same praises around the throne of God.

{a} "psalms" Col 3:16 {b} "singing" Ps 147:7 {c} "heart" Ps 57:7,8

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