John and Charles Wesley had an immense impact on the church of the late eighteenth century. Their emphasis on evangelism and discipleship caused great growth in the church. They also strongly influenced church music in a wonderful way through their efforts to improve the congregational singing of the church. Both John and Charles focused on bringing new congregational songs to believers. It was Charles who penned over 6500 hymn texts over his lifetime. We still sing a number of his hymn texts today: And Can It Be, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Jesus Lover of My Soul.
Apparently in an effort to bolster congregational singing in his church, John Wesley penned these words in 1770 to encourage his congregation:
1. Sing All – see that you join the congregation as frequently as you can.
2. Sing Lustily – and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.
3. Sing Modestly – do not bawl so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation that you may not destroy the harmony, but strive to unite your voices together so as to make one melodious sound.
4. Sing in time – whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before and do not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
5. Sing spiritually – have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature.
Some words from John Wesley that still ring true for our congregations today!