Making a Joyful Noise
Don't look as if your religion hurt you —Billy Sunday.
TTE hath put a new song in my mouth." That is I I real religion which sets the saints to singing. Gloomy Christians are a poor advertisement of the Gospel. There is nothing of gloom about a Billy Sunday revival.
Shrewd students of the campaigns have often remarked that there are so few tears and so much laughter at the evangelist's services. There is scarcely one of Sunday's sermons in which he does not make the congregation laugh. All of his work is attuned to the note of vitality, robustness and happiness. Concerning the long-faced Christian Sunday says:
"Some people couldn't have faces any longer if they thought God was dead. They ought to pray to stop looking so sour. If they smile it looks like it hurts them, and you're always glad when they stop smiling. If Paul and Silas had had such long faces as some church members have on them when they went into the Philippian jail, the jailer would never have been saved. There never was a greater mistake than to suppose that God wants you to be longfaced when you put on your good clothes. You'd better not fast at all if you give the devil all the benefit. God wants people to be happy.
"The matter with a lot of you people is that your religion is not complete. You have not yielded yourself to God and gone out for God and God's truth. Why, I am almost afraid to make some folks laugh for fear that I will be arrested for breaking a costly piece of antique bric-abrae. You would think that if some people laughed it would break their faces. I want to tell you that the
happy, smiling, sunny-faced religion will win more people to Jesus Christ than the miserable old grimfaced kind will in ten years. I pity any one who can't laugh. There must be something wrong with their religion or their liver. The devil can't laugh.
"'Oh, laugh and the world laughs with you,
Weep and you weep alone;
"lis easy enough to be pleasant
When life moves along like a song;
But the man worth while is the man who can smile
When everything goes dead wrong.'
"Don't look as if religion hurt you. Don't look as if you had on a number two shoe when you ought to be wearing a number five. I see some women who look as if they had the toothache. That won't win anyone for Christ. Look pleasant. Look as if religion made you happy, when you had it.
"Then there is music. When you get to heaven you'll find that not all have been preached there. They have been sung there. God pity us when music is not for the glory of God. Some of you will sing for money and for honor, but you won't sing in the church. Much of the church music today is all poppycock and nonsense. Some of these highpriced sopranos get up in church and do a little diaphragm wiggle and make a noise like a horse neighing. I don't wonder the people in the congregation have a hard time of it."
So Sunday sets the city to singing. His sermons are framed in music—and not music that is a performance by some soloist, but music that ministers to his message. His gospel is sung as well as preached. The singing is as essential a part of the service as the sermon. Everybody likes good music, especially of a popular sort. Sunday sees that this taste is gratified.
The Tabernacle music in itself is enough to draw the great throngs which nightly crowd the building.. The choir furnishes not only the melodies but also a rare spectacle. This splendid regiment of helpers seated back of the speaker affects both the eyes and the ears of the audiences. Without his choirs Sunday could scarcely conduct his great campaigns. These helpers are all volunteers, and their steadfast loyalty throughout weeks of strenuous meetings in all kinds of weather is a Christian service of the first order.
True, membership in a .Sunday choir is in itself an avocation, a social and religious interest that enriches the lives of the choir members. They "belong" to something big and popular. They havenew themes for conversation. New acquaintances are made. The associations first formed in the Sunday choir have in many cases continued as the most sacred relations of life. The brightest spot in the monotony of many a young person's life has been his or her membership in the Billy Sunday choir.
The choir also has the advantage of a musical drill and experience which could be secured in no other fashion. All the advantages of trained leadership are given in return for the volunteer service. Incidentally, the choir members know that they are serving their churches and their communities in a deep and far-reaching fashion.
"some Op These High-priced Sopranos Get Up In Church And Make A Noise Like A Horse Neighing "
Many visitors to the Sunday Tabernacle are surprised to find that the music is of such fine quality. There is less "religious rag-time" than is commonly associated with the idea of revival meetings. More than a fair half of the music sung is that which holds an established place in the hymnody of all churches.
There is more to the music of a campaign than the volume of singing by the choir, with an occasional solo by the chorister or some chosen person. A variety of ingenious devices are employed to heighten the impression of the music. Thus a common antiphonal effect is obtained by having the choir sing one line of a hymn and the last ten rows of persons in the rear of the Tabernacle sing the answering line. The old hymn "For You I am Praying" is used with electrical effect in this fashion. Part singing is employed in ways that are possible only to such a large chorus as the musical director of the Sunday campaigns has at his command.
A genius for mutuality characterizes the Sunday song services. The audiences are- given a share in the music. Not only are they requested to join in the singing, but they are permitted to choose their favorite hymns, and frequently the choir is called upon to listen while the audience sings.
Various delegations are permitted to sing hymns of their own choice. Diversity, and variety and vim seem to be the objective of the musical part of the program. From half an hour to an hour of this varied music introduces each service. When the evangelist himself is ready to preach, the crowd has been worked up into a glow and fervor that make it receptive to his message.
If some stickler for ritual and stateliness objects that these services are entirely too informal, and too much like a political campaign, the partisan of Mr. Sunday will heartily assent. These are great American crowds in their every-day humor. These evangelistic meetings are not regular church services. It has already been made plain that there is no "dim religious light" about the Sunday Tabernacle meetings.
It is a tribute to the comprehensiveness of the Sunday method that they bring together the most representative gatherings imaginable every day under the unadorned rafters of the big wooden shell called the Tabernacle. Shrewdly, the evangelist has made sure of the democratic quality of his congregation. He has succeeded in having the gospel sing its way into the affection and interest of every-day folk.
It is no valid objection to the Sunday music that it is so thoroughly entertaining. The Tabernacle crowds sing, not as a religious duty, but for the sheer joy of singing. One of the commonest remarks heard amid the crowd is "I never expect to hear such singing again till I get to Heaven." It is real Christian ministry to put the melodies of the Gospel into the memories of the multitudes, and to brighten with the songs of salvation the gray days of the burdenbearers of the world. Boys and men on the street whistle Gospel songs. The echoes of Tabernacle music may be heard long after Mr. Sunday has gone from a community in ten thousand kitchens and in the shops and factories and stores of the community. This is the strategy of "the expulsive power of a new affection." These meetings give to Christians a new and jubilant affirmation, instead of a mere defense for their faith. The campaign music carries the campaign message farther than the voice of any man could ever penetrate.
Upon the place of music in the Christian life Sunday says:"For sixteen years therehad been nosongs in Jerusalem. It must have been a great loss to the Jews, for everywhere we read we find them singing. They sang all the way to the Red Sea, they sang when Jesus was born, they sang at the Last Supper and when Jesus was arisen.
"Song has always been inseparably associated with the advancement of God's word. You'll find when religion is at low ebb the song will cease. Many of the great revivals have been almost entirely song. The great Welsh revival was mostly song. In the movements of Martin Luther, Wesley, Moody and Torrey you will find abundance of song. When a church congregation gets at such low ebb that they can't sing and have to hire a professional choir to sing for them, they haven't got much religion. And some of those choir members are so stuck up they won't sing in a chorus. If I had a bunch like that they'd quit or I would.
"Take the twenty-fourth Psalm, 'Lift up your heads,
0 ye gates,' and the thirty-third Psalm. They were written by David to be sung in the temple.
"I can imagine his singing them now. They were David's own experiences. Look at them. Now you hear an old lobster get up to give an experience, 'Forty years ago
1 started forth—.' The same old stereotyped form.
"There's many a life today which has no song. The most popular song for most of you would be,
"'Where is that joy which once I knew,
When first I loved the Lord?'"
Right behind you where you left it when you went to that card party; right where you left it when you began to go to the theater; right where you left it when you side-stepped and backslid; right where you left it when you began paying one hundred dollars for a dress and gave twenty-five cents to the Lord; right where you left it when you began to gossip."