H. A. Miller was professor of Music in the Southern Missionary College, Collegedale, Tennessee, when this article was written.

Medieval worship was characterized by a silent congregation. Each meaningful act of worship was performed for them, and their duty was to enter quietly, sit reverently, and depart after beholding a service that appealed to the eye and ear, but one in which they had no voice: they were "spectators rather than participants."

Among Luther's reforms was the introduction of congregational singing. This raised the dignity of the individual believer and gave him a voice in the service. On the wings of song the doctrines of the Reformation were carried to all parts of Germany where they instantly took root in a vigorous form. The acceptance of this new vocal freedom was so complete as to tag the Protestants as "Hymn Singers." Protestants in general, today could hardly claim the exalted title of "Hymn Singers." It can and should be in this day one of the "glories of Protestantism."

A hymn sung by the congregation means more than music, as such, by a large group producing volume of tone, or as a means of obtaining variety in the service to be omitted if occasion demands. It is verily an act of worship, pleasing to God as the assembled worshipers unite harmonically, and in melody of voice express through a devotional poem the united sentiments of their hearts.

Listen to the testimony of a once-famous organist, Henry Smart, illustrating the effect of congregational hymn upon him, a great musician: "Do you hear that?" he asked, as the tone poured from hundreds of throats. "That, to my mind, is finer than any choir."

When one voice is uplifted in praise there may come a degree of inspiration and uplift. But when a thousand join in the singing of an hymn, there is majesty and a surge of inner power that speaks well to the soul. In the singing of the hymn by the congregation there lies the attainment of greater spiritual possibilities.

"Congregational singing is the most practical as well as the most important department of church music. Its glories are within the reach of every active parish. Its restoration as a universal custom is certain, and its supremacy among the form of church music is only a question of spirituality in Christian work. Its establishment involves no risk or undue expense, and its success can bring with it no dangers. On the contrary, its maintenance is almost of necessity a distinct and powerful spur to the religious life of the parish, refreshing, cheering, and edifying all who come within its influence" (Waldo S. Pratt, Parish Problems).

The prayer is made through the minister; the choir leads the worshipers in musical meditation, but the congregational hymn belongs to those in the pews and becomes one of the high points of the whole worship service. What is there to match the power of a well-chosen hymn sung by all the congregation? Why are we so willing to reduce the number of hymns to make room for other types of music not so vital to the spiritual welfare of those who worship?

Did I hear someone say, "But of what artistic value is congregational singing? It does not compare in rendition to a number by the choir." Congregations sing without rehearsal, and frequently they sing songs with which they are not too familiar. The effect of the music may not be pleasing to the musically critical ear; but it is not an exercise the aim of which is to produce artistic results. Would it not be well for us to look for spiritual results and make this primary in our thinking as we hear a congregation sing! This lack of artistic value is not a serious shortcoming.

"The singing is not always to be done by a few. As often as possible, let the entire congregation join" (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 144).

"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). It is not how lovely is the music but how deeply sincere; not the perfection of sound vibrations with an insincere heart, but a sincere heart though the vibrations be imperfect. If God required from His creatures music that would please His ear, who would dare say that his particular choice would satisfy the demand? Then let us enter into this portion of the service which is distinctly Protestant, and with an honest heart lift our voices in praise and prayer to the best of our ability, and our souls will be watered and Heaven's ears will be open to the sweet sounds rising from a group of worshipers.

Let us beware of clipping the wings of the soul of the congregation by squeezing out one hymn from the full quota of hymns by other less essential things, and thereby gradually lose one of the former earmarks of real Protestantism.

H. A. Miller was professor of Music in the Southern Missionary College, Collegedale, Tennessee, when this article was written.