Wesley concludes his Directions for Singing with this crowning jewel:
7. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your Heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.
This last point rises above the rest. Not that it abolishes all the rest, but fulfills them. Without this point you can chalk the rest up to legalism. I’ll admit, I've had to dip into this point to expand on the others. Wesley’s pastoral insight in each of the previous points all lean upon this one.
His encouragement to sing spiritually reflects Christ’s teaching that those who wish to worship the Father must do so in spirit and truth. And in a few short sentences Wesley does a pretty good job getting the heart of what it means to sing spiritually; having an eye to God in every word you sing, seeking to please Him more than yourself, attending to the sense of what you sing (that is, truth). It is for this reason Wesley encourages his people not only to sing certain songs, but how to sing them, in order that they might worship God rightly while they sing together.
Wesley offers his people a further incentive; your spiritual singing is pleasing to God now and such faithfulness will be rewarded at Christ’s second coming. Add to that our understanding that we cannot do such things on our own, but that our worship is mediated through a perfect Intercessor, making our imperfect worship perfect and acceptable to our Holy God, then the implications are rather staggering. The Father is pleased with our singing now and will reward our song because of Christ! What a glorious motivation to gather and sing!
I hope that this series has been an encouragement to you, whether you sing in front or sing in the pew. My real hope is that these instructions will help us will come away with a fuller understanding of what it means to sing, what is happening when we sing, and how our singing together reflects the truth of the gospel.
Previous installments of the Direction's for Singing series