Robert Ingersoll was a 19th century agnostic and a follower of naturalism; he had no belief in the eternal, but stressed the importance of living only in the here and now.
Ingersoll made light of the Bible, stating that “free thought will give us truth.” He called the Bible “a fable, an obscenity, a sham and a lie.” He claimed that the Christian “creed [was] the ignorant past, bullying the enlightened present.”
In 1879 Ingersoll was called upon to speak at the funeral of his brother. Standing by his departed brother’s grave, this most noted infidel said, “Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry.”
Ingersoll suddenly died July 21, 1899. His family was shocked. His friends were stunned. And his devastated wife, reluctant to part with his body, kept it home for several days until health concerns demanded it be removed. His remains were cremated.
In their book, “The Evangelist and The Agnostic,” George and Donald Sweeting wrote, “. . . the public response to his passing was that of hopelessness.” The memorial service included the notice, “THERE WILL BE NO SINGING.”
This week at the Florida College Lectures there has been singing. Each night prior to the speaker, we engage in 30 minutes of singing. Last night, we visited the Temple Terrace Church who always dedicates the Wednesday of Lecture week to worshiping in song.
My friend and preaching colleague, Don Truex, began the service rhetorically asking, “Aren’t you glad that God made worship in such a way that honors Him, but also benefits us?”
Throughout the Bible, singing has been an integral part of worship. Following their release from Egyptian bondage and the escape from Pharaoh’s pursuit, Moses and the Israelites rejoiced in praise, “I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! (Ex. 15:1).
After the Philistines were defeated and the Ark of the Covenant was returned, David offered this Psalm of praise to Jehovah.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! (1 Chron. 16:8-10)
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul penned, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Cor. 14:15). Likewise, he proclaimed, “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Heb 2:12). Singing is a way to express our love for Lord. To honor Him. To thank Him. And to praise Him.
But, singing also offers a wonderful benefit to the worshiper. The Bible exhorts, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).
Through singing, we encourage and edify one another. We teach God’s Word. We exhort each other to remain faithful. We remind ourselves of the benefits and blessings we enjoy in Christ. We counsel one another with Biblical advice. We plead for unbelievers to obey the gospel. And we even warn each other about the dangers of falling away.
Singing strengthens our faith. Deepens our love. And fortifies our hope. Singing touches the heart. Inspires the soul. And motivates us to greater service and deeper devotion. Think of some of your favorite hymns and what they mean to you? How they challenge you? Help you? Encourage you? Arouse you? And persuade you?
Unlike the depressing hopelessness of Ingersol’s funeral, when the people of God gather, there will be singing. Not only in this life, but in that heavenly land when we bask in the glow of God’s love and sing His praise forevermore.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman