“The Church is... where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word is.” - The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine §242
Kempton New Church

Week 1
Day 3



The Music of the Psalms

AR 279:3. That songs were for the sake of exalting the life of love, and the joy derived from it, is evident from the following passages:

O sing unto Jehovah a new song, make a joyful noise unto Jehovah all the earth, resound, shout (Ps. 98:1, 4-8).
Sing unto Jehovah a new song, let Israel rejoice in His Maker, sing psalms to Him (Ps. 149:1-3).
Sing unto Jehovah a new song, lift up the voice (Isa. 42:10, 12).
Sing, O ye heavens, shout ye lower parts of the earth, resound with singing, ye mountains (Isa. 44:23; 49:13).
Shout unto God our strength, cry out to the God of Jacob; lift up a song (Ps. 81:1-3).
Gladness and joy shall be found in Zion, confession and the voice of singing (Isa. 51:3; 52:8, 9).
Sing unto Jehovah, cry out and shout, O daughter of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee (Isa. 12:1-6).
My heart is fixed, I will sing and sing psalms. Arouse thee, my glory, I will confess Thee, O Lord, among the nations, I will sing psalms unto Thee among the peoples (Ps. 57:7-9; and in many other places).

Psalms were written to be sung and played on instruments.

AR 279:2. The reason why “a song” also signifies glorification, which is confession from joy of heart, is because singing exalts, and causes affection to break out from the heart into sound, and show itself intensely in its life. The Psalms of David are not anything else than songs; for they were played and sung, and therefore were also called “songs” in many passages....

AE 326:2. For this reason many kinds of musical instruments were used in sacred worship with the Jewish and Israelitish nation, some of which had relation to the affections of celestial good, and some to the affections of spiritual good, and to the joys therefrom, respecting what was to be proclaimed.... To these was added the singing of songs, which gave form to the agreements of things with the sounds of affections. Such were all the psalms of David. Therefore they are called “psalms,” from playing [instruments], and also “songs.”

AC 8337:2. Formerly in Divine worship many kinds of musical instruments were employed, but with much distinction. In general, by wind instruments were expressed affections of good, and by stringed instruments affections of truth, and this from the correspondence of every sounding thing with the affections. It is known that some natural affections are expressed by certain kinds of musical instruments, and others by certain other ones, and that when a fitting harmony joins in accord, they actually stir these affections. Those who are skilled in music are aware of these things and make suitable use of them.

The cause of this fact arises from the very nature of sound and of its agreement with the affections. Men learned this at first, not from science and art, but from hearing and its exquisite sense. From this it is clear that it does not come from any origin in the natural world, but from an origin in the spiritual world, and accordingly from the correspondence with things in the spiritual world of those things in the natural world which flow from order. Harmonious sound and its varieties correspond to states of joy and gladness in the spiritual world; and states of joy and gladness there arise from the affections, which in that world are affections of good and truth.

From this then it can be seen that musical instruments correspond to the delights and pleasantnesses of spiritual and celestial affections, and that some instruments correspond to celestial affections, and some to spiritual affections. (See what has been said and shown before on this subject, n. 418-420, 4138.)

Questions and Comments
  1. Of the passages quoted in AR 279:3, which sound most like “exalting the life of love and the joy from it”? There are songs in Isaiah and other parts of the Word as well as the psalms themselves.
  2. Thinking of the sound of instruments, can you hear how the sound of wind instruments corresponds to love while the sound of stringed instruments corresponds to affections of truth?
  3. Would our worship services be improved if we had more skilled singers and musicians on various instruments, both wind and stringed, contributing to our music? (We do have beautiful recorded music.)
  4. How do you think it affects our worship that our primary instruments are piano and guitar, both stringed, as compared with organ, which originally was a wind instrument?
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