SONG >> Acknowledgment and Confession from Joy of Heart
WIND INSTRUMENTS (Continuous Sounds) >> Celestial Affections of Good
STRINGED INSTRUMENTS (Discrete Sounds) >> Spiritual Affections of Truth
TRUMPETS >> Voice of Praise from Celestial Goods, TIMBRELS >> Celestial Truths,
PSALTERIES >> Spiritual Goods, HARPS >> Spiritual Truths
Mention is often made in the Word of musical instruments, in consequence of their correspondence, which depends upon the difference in their sounds. These are of two kinds, namely, stringed instruments, the solid parts of which are composed of soft wood, as the harp, psaltery, lyre, etc., and wind instruments made of metals, as the trumpet, cymbal, etc. ; of animals horns, as the horn, and of hollow wood and reeds, as the pipe ; together with those in which the sound is produced by vibratory members being stretched over hollow cylinders or circles, as the tabret, the drum, and the timbrel. In stringed instruments the sounds are produced by discrete or perfectly distinct movements, and are more particularly predicated of the understanding, or, rather, of the distinct degrees of spiritual affection, and such discrete sounds excite within us the affections of truth ; but wind or breathing instruments, being capable of a continuous prolongation of sound, have a more specific reference to the will, or, rather, to the various degrees of celestial affection, such continuous sounds being those which more particularly excite within us the affections of goodness and charity. Perfect harmony depends upon the skilful union of both these kinds of instruments, and their association with the human voice, and is representative of the harmonic union of the will, understanding, and life, of spiritual and celestial affections, when receptive of goodness and truth, together with the inward exultation, delight, and desires thence resulting. And with these, for the same reason, because representative of inward states of delight and joy, singing and dancing are frequently united. Thus, in Psalm cl. we read, " Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of his power. Praise Him for his mighty acts : praise Him according to his excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet : praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and pipe: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals : praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord." In this divine Psalm we are exhorted, in the spiritual sense, to render praise to the Lord, not only with the holy thoughts of the understanding, but with all the pure and fervent affections of the will united in one harmonious concord. We are to praise Him with all our powers for his wonder ful works of creation, redemption, regeneration, and salvation, and for the glorious attributes by which they were and still are accomplished. To praise Him with wind instruments is to celebrate Him from the inmost or celestial affections of love and goodness in the heart ; and to praise Him with stringed instruments and cymbals, is to exalt Him from spiritual affections of wisdom and truth in the understanding, thus to delight in the Lord, and to worship and serve Him from the harmonious agreement and concord of the whole mind. For let man, as to the complex faculties of his intellect and reason, be contemplated as like a stringed instrument, as the psaltery, and, as to his voluntary principles, like a wind instrument, as the organ, every note, by virtue of his hereditary tendencies to evil and error, may be said, before regeneration, to be deranged and discordant. What, then, is the process of regeneration but the attuning of all the affections and thoughts, words and works, so that every string and pipe gives forth its appropriate sound, and combines with all the rest in perfect unity, uttering in harmonious notes and melodious tones songs of adoration, gratitude, and praise, and giving suitable expression to the inmost delights of the soul.
Sometimes stringed instruments or wind instruments are spoken of by themselves, as when deliverance or redemption by the power of divine truth is treated of, where we read, " The Lord was ready to save me : therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the Lord" (Isa. xxxviii. 20).
That to sing to the Lord denotes to praise and glorify Him is self-evident ; and to do this with a timbrel, as Miriam did, after the wonderful passage and deliverance from the Red Sea (Ex. xv. 20), signifies to perform this great duty of thanksgiving to the Lord for his abounding mercies, from an inward ground of heartfelt confidence and gratitude.
On account of this signification of musical instruments, and their distinction into two classes, several Psalms, which have relation to the spiritual affections of wisdom or truth, were directed to be sung in the representative worship of the Jewish Temple, accompanied by neginoth or gittith, which were stringed instruments (Ps. iv., liv.) ; while others, which have more immediate reference to the celestial affections of love or goodness, and faith thence derived, were required to be sung upon nehiloth, or upon wind instruments (Ps. v., viii. ; Hab. iii. 19). m Sometimes instruments of music are spoken of in an opposite sense, to denote the sinful delight which the unregenerate take in what is evil and false. Such insane pleasures, originating in self-homage, together with its enchanting persuasions, are signified by the worship of Nebuchadnezzar s golden image, which was accompanied with all kinds of music (Dan. iii.). And it is to such evil and impure pleasures, especially when they arise from the profanation of what is good and true, that the Lord alludes, where He says, " Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs ; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria. That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David " (Amos v. 23 ; vi. 1, 5). And, again, speaking of the self-intelligent, who despise the instructions of the Divine Word, it is said, " The harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their [polluted] feasts ; but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands" (Isa. v. 12).
The harp is a well known stringed instrument, often mentioned in the Word, and signifies, in the internal sense, the voice of praise from spiritual truth, and thence confession, from sincere joy of heart, that all deliverance from sin is effected by the power of divine truth proceeding from divine mercy. Hence, in praising and blessing God for victorious deliverance from all spiritual enemies and troubles, and the consequent elevation of the mind, together with the gladness and comfort of soul thence derived, the inspired penman writes : " I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy TRUTH, O my God ; unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel " (Ps. lxxi. 22). This is the reason why angels are represented as having " the harps of God" (Rev. v. 8); for thus all confess Him with one accord, and from inmost delight. To represent the soul-enchanting harmony of such acknowledgment and its attendant joys among the inhabit ants of heaven, the apostle says, " I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder : and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps " (Rev. xiv. 2). With this signification of the harp before us, how beautiful and in structive is the account we have of Saul and David, where we read, that in consequence of obstinate disobedience " the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul," and an evil spirit was permitted to trouble him ; but he commanded his servants to provide him a man who could play skilfully upon the harp. And David was brought before him, "And it came to pass," it is said, that " when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand; so Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him " (1 Sam. xvi. 14-23). The sphere of such confession, arising from the harp of truth being melodiously attuned to our states by the Lord s presence and providence, is truly angelic, and full of power. Evil spirits, who can live and rejoice only in scenes of jarring discord, are expelled from communion with the soul, turbulent passions are calmed, reason resumes the sceptre, polluted affections and thoughts are driven away, despair and grief are dissipated, so that the blessed angels can draw near to minister to man s consolation and joy, and restore him, if he will, to innocence, intelligence, and felicity.
On this subject Swedenborg s remarks are numerous, interesting, and most edifying. Thus, in one place, he says, " Formerly, in divine worship, several kinds of musical instruments were applied, but with much distinction ; in general, by the wind instruments were expressed the affections of good, and by the stringed instruments the affections of truth, and this from the correspondence of everything sonorous with the affections. It is a known thing that by some kinds of musical instruments are expressed natural affections of one quality, by some natural affections of another quality, and, when suitable harmony conspires, that they actually call forth those affections. They who are skilled in music are aware of this, and also act accordingly in applying the several instruments to the purpose intended. This circumstance has its ground in the very nature of sounds, and of their agreement with the affections. Man learnt this, at first, not from science and art, but from the hearing and its exquisite sense. Hence it is plain that it does not originate in the natural world, but in the spiritual, and in this case is derived from the correspondence of things which flow from order in the natural world with things in the spiritual world. Harmonious sound and its varieties in the natural world correspond to states of joy and gladness in the spiritual, and states of joy and gladness in the spiritual world exist from affections, which, in that world, are the affections of good and truth ; hence, now it may be manifest that musical instruments correspond to the delights and pleasantnesses of spiritual and celestial affections, and that some instruments correspond to the latter affections, some to the former." A. C. 8337.
" As things celestial are the holy things of love, and the good things thence derived, so things spiritual are the truths and good things of faith ; for it is the part of faith to understand not only what is true, but also what is good, the knowledges of faith implying both ; but to be such as faith teacheth, is the part of the celestial [principle]. In asmuch as faith implieth the knowledge both of goodness and truth, they are signified by two instruments, the harp and the organ. The harp is a stringed instrument, as every one knows, and therefore signifies spiritual truth ; but the organ is between a stringed instrument and a wind instrument, and therefore signifies spiritual good. " In the Word mention is made of various instruments, and each has its particular signification, as will be shown, by the divine mercy of the Lord, in its proper place. At present we shall only adduce some passages from David in relation thereto, as, for instance, I will offer in the tent of Jehovah sacrifices of shouting, I will sing and play to Jehovah (Psalm xxvii. 6). Where by tent is expressed what is celestial, and by shouting, singing, and playing, what is spiritual. Again, Sing to Jehovah, ye just, for his praise is comely for the upright ; confess to Jehovah on the harp, play unto Him on the psaltery, an instrument of ten strings ; sing unto Him a new song, play skilfully with a loud noise, because the Word of Jehovah is right, and all his work is in truth (Ps. xxxiii. 1-4), signifying the truths of faith, whereof such things are predicated. Things spiritual, or truths and the good things of faith, were celebrated by the harp and psaltery, by singing and the like ; whereas things holy, or the celestial things of faith, were celebrated by wind instruments, as trumpets and the like ; hence so many instruments were used about the Temple, and it was ordained so frequently that this or that should be celebrated with particular instruments, and this was the reason why in struments were applied and understood to signify the things them selves which were celebrated by them, as in the cases now before us. Again, I will confess unto thee with the instrument of psaltery, thy truth, O my God ; unto thee will I play with the harp, thou Holy One of Israel ; my lips shall sing when I play unto thee, and my soul which thou hast redeemed (Ps. Ixxi. 22, 23). Where, in like manner, the truths of faith are signified. Again, Answer to Jehovah in confession, play on the harp to our God (Ps. cxlvii. 7). In which passage confession has respect to the celestial things of faith, and therefore mention is made of Jehovah ; whereas, to play on the harp has respect to the spiritual things of faith, and therefore mention is made of God. Again, Let them praise the name of Jehovah in the dance, let them play unto Him with the timbrel and harp (Ps cxlix. 3). The timbrel signifies good, and the harp truth, which they praise. Again, Praise God with the sound of the trumpet ; praise Him on the psaltery and harp; praise Him with the timbrel and pipe ; praise Him on stringed instruments and organs ; praise Him on the cymbals of hearing ; praise Him on the cymbals of shouting (Ps. cl. 3-5), signifying the- good things and truths of faith, which were the ground of praise. Nor let any one suppose that so many different instruments would have been here mentioned, unless they had had such spiritual signification. Again, Send out thy light and thy truth, let them lead me ; let them bring me unto the mountain of thy holiness, and to thy habitations, and I will go unto the altar of God, unto the God of the gladness of my rejoicing, and I will confess to thee on the harp, O God, my God (Ps. xliii. 3, 4), signifying the knowledges of goodness and truth. So in Isaiah, Take a harp, go about the city, make sweet melody, sing many songs, that thou mayest be remembered (xxiii. 16), signifying the things respecting faith, and the knowledges thereof. The same is expressed still more plainly in the Revelation : * The four animals and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints (v. 8). Where it must be evident to every one that the animals and elders had not harps, but that by harps are signified the truths of faith, as by golden vials full of odors are signified the good things of faith. In David they are called praises and confessions, which were made by instruments (Ps. xlii. 5 ; Ixix. 31) ; and in another place, in John, I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters ; and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps ; and they sung a new song (Rev. xiv. 2). And in another place, * I saw them that had gotten the victory stand near the sea of glass, having the harps of God (Rev. xv. 2). It is worthy to be remarked, that angels and spirits, according to their differences with respect to goodness and truth, distinguish tones, and this not only in the case of singing and of instruments, but also in the words of speech, and admit only such tones as are in concord, so that there is an agreement of tones, consequently of instruments, with the nature and essence of goodness and truth." A. C. 419, 420.
The Egyptian priests appear to have been their musicians. Their flute was only a cow's horn, with three or four perforations in it, afterwards imitated in metal, and even still called horns. Their harp or lyre had only three strings. The Grecian and Jewish harp or lyre had seven, eight, and ten strings, probably somewhat like a modern guitar or lute, and was small, being held in the hand. The Jewish trumpets were rams horns, but afterwards were also made of silver and other metals, and were both straight and bent. Their flute was the same as the Egyptian. Their organ was an arrangement of pipes, similar to what are called Pandean, or shepherd s pipes ; and perforated pipes, or flutes, sometimes made of reeds, and were both single and double. The sackbut or psaltery was, in all probability, a triangular instrument, furnished with ten strings, and struck by a rod, or by a plectrum. Their other musical instruments were those of percussion, as the timbrel or tabret, a kind of tambourine ; the triangle, or triangular rods, in pairs, both plain and charged with rings. The citherns of the ancients were made of bronze or brass, and were furnished with bars and rings. However simple these ancient instruments were, they bear precisely the same signification as the more complicated and complete of modern times, for all kinds are equally divisible into the three classes just mentioned. Such music as the Jews had at their command, singing and even dancing, appears to have been interwoven into all their religious festivals and ceremonies of worship, and this could only have been from their cor respondence.
Both cheerful and mournful singing and dancing are often spoken of in the Word, to denote and express inward joy, and its correspond ing delight, in the external mind; for "joy of heart finds utterance in singing, because when the heart is full of joy, and thence the thoughts also, it then pours itself forth in singing " (Ap. Ex. 326). This gladness and joy are not derived to man from the natural world, or from mere scientific skill, but from the spiritual world, by perception or intuition ; the external sounds and their harmonious or melodious combinations being the corresponding base on which they rest, and by means of which the affections are brought forth. Choirs for conducting the praises of congregations in public worship, therefore, ought to be pious and intelligent persons, who, themselves, inwardly feel and respond to the appropriate tunes and melodies which they introduce ; and then the congregations will be greatly aided in their united responses of satisfaction and delight. Like the true poet, the master of music also owes his peculiar skill to an inferior kind of inspiration or spiritual intuition. The prophets frequently accompanied their plenarily-inspired songs and predictions with the melody of musical instruments.
Author: Edward Madeley