Wilhelmus a Brakel on Dutch Singing

It amazes me that the godly in the Netherlands have so little desire to sing, and also engage in this very infrequently. It is true that singing little is consistent with the lackadaisicalness of our nation (compared to other nations). Nevertheless, worldly people sing quite a bit, but they sing vain songs which stir up the heart toward vanity and immorality. The godly are, however, generally silent in these parts. The one says, “I am too busy”; the other, “I have no voice”; the third, “I do not know any of the melodies”; the fourth, “I do not dare for fear the neighbor would hear me and deem me to be a hypocrite.” All of this is, however, not truly the problem, but it is a lack of desire. If the heart were more spiritual and joyous, we would more readily praise the Lord with joyful song and thereby stir up ourselves and others.

–Wilhelmus a Brakel (1635-1711)

(The Christian’s Reasonable Service, volume 4: Ethics and Eschatology, RHB, page 35)

First of all, I am so happy to have found a Systematic Theology with a chapter on singing.  Secondly, I am happy to find one that uses the word “lackadaisicalness.”

But most importantly, I find that a Brakel’s critique of his culture (he ministered in the Netherlands) rings true of our churches, which claim to be heirs of the Dutch Reformed heritage.  Perhaps we’ve inherited more than strong theology… have we also inherited their “lackadaisicalness” with regards to singing?  Have we inherited their excuse-making tendencies in our efforts to not sing joyfully in praise of our God?

Even if they are four centuries old, a Brakel’s words are a harsh critique and a needed warning.



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