Edwards on Church Music, the Ordinances, and our Affections


The “sacraments” or “ordinances” of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are, in part, little pieces of art: miniature dramas that highlight precious truths. They are parallel in a significant way to church music, as Jonathan Edwards explains in his classic book, The Religious Affections,

The duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose, and do it with music, but only that such is our nature and frame that these things have a tendency to move our affections.

The same thing appears in the nature and design of the sacraments which God hath appointed. God, considering our frame, hath not only appointed that we should be told of the great things of the gospel and of the redemption of Christ, and instructed in them by his Word; but also that they should be, as it were, exhibited to our view, in sensible representations, in the sacraments, the more to affect us with them.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

One thought on “Edwards on Church Music, the Ordinances, and our Affections”

  1. Very true. This is on my dissertation reading list too:)

    Not to rain on the parade, though, but couldn’t E’s reasoning have been more theocentric here? Surely another reason for these commands is that God Himself enjoys being praised in such a way. They also sing poetry in heaven, where their frame is quite different. Just a thought.

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