The Quest for Music Miracles
© Copyright, Grantley Morris All rights reserved
FANNY AND FRANCES
Blind, childless and over forty, Fanny Crosby longed to find more fulfilment. In 1864 a pastor told her of Bradbury’s need for someone to write Gospel lyrics for his music. At home, as she pondered this possibility she had a vision in which, though sightless almost from birth, she peered through a telescope at stars. An angel told her she must return to earth and work there but, he said, she would be allowed to hear ‘one burst of celestial music’ before she left. It was more beautiful than anything she had ever heard and with it came the conviction as to her calling. She wrote Gospel songs for the next fifty years.
Anglican hymnist Frances Ridley Havergal (1838 – 1879) has enriched the hymn-books of numerous denominations with such songs as ‘Take my life and let it be.’ Not only have her words brought blessing to many, this godly lady was a composer and performer of no mean ability.
‘I hear strange and very beautiful chords, generally full, slow and grand, succeeding each other in most interesting sequences,’ she wrote in a letter to her mother. ‘I do not invent them, I could not; they pass before my mind, and I only listen.’
One instance occurred while she was travelling in a train. For
about half an hour she seemed to have a transcended ability to
hear music which in pitch extended far above and far below the
normal hearing range. In volume, too, the range was immense, sometimes
being of ‘infinite softness’.
I hesitated for months. Finally, I weakened. I’d been searching high and low for material suitable for this chapter, but never had I stooped this low. The bookshop might be reputable, but to my way of thinking, a book purporting to be the ‘visions of Marietta Davis’ (whoever she is) had an eighty to ninety percent chance of being either the work of a crack-pot or a heretic. But I’m committed to thorough research. Someone has to brave shark-infested waters to bring home the pearl; to prospect trackless wastes for gems to brighten civilization. (It’s not that I’ve got a big head, it’s just that my halo keeps getting caught in my pith helmet and snorkel.)
I read the book, and to my surprise, I lost my claim to being the world’s greatest martyr. I actually enjoyed it. Certainly, if you want a book stressing the centrality of the cross, this is it. And it must be the book par excellence for parents grieving the loss of young children. It quotes Scripture liberally. It affirms the divinity of Jesus, the goodness of God, the reality of heaven and hell, and the necessity of faith and repentance.
I’m not putting my imprimatur on it. All I can say is that were it marketed as an inspirational Christian book like Pilgrim’s Progress, I expect it would be almost universally appreciated. The mere mention of ‘vision,’ however, sends chills down many a Christian spine. We want to shrink from it simply because heretical groups have peddled their poison under such a label. Yet well over a century has passed and to my knowledge this book has spawned not even a Christian denomination, let alone a sect.
In 1848, Marietta Davis went into a coma from which doctors were unable to arouse her. Nine days later, the twenty-five year-old Baptist lady awoke with a remarkable story. She believed her spirit had ascended to Paradise and there she had experienced many wonderful things. Like both Dr. Eby and the Chinese orphans referred to earlier, she was convinced she had also seen hell.
Respected theologians examined her account of what transpired and pronounced it doctrinally sound. They were at pains to differentiate it from such heresies as Spiritism.
Marietta saw both angels and redeemed humans singing and playing various stringed instruments.
She spent most of her heavenly visit in the ‘Infant Paradise.’ There she saw a children’s choir, enveloped in love, harmoniously singing praises in ‘manifold’ parts and accompanying themselves on harps.
A number of the songs, whether sung by the Son of God, angels or redeemed humanity, contained direct quotes from Scripture. Lyrically, we would today call them Scripture choruses, though Marietta gives us no idea of the melody.
She was invited to join the redeemed in song, but was too overwhelmed to do so.
The angel showed her the place where the redeemed ‘first attempt’ to sing heavenly songs – perhaps hinting at a learning process.
Though she mentions loud music and speaks of the sound echoing, it was usually the softness of the music that fascinated her. Her book implies she was granted an enhanced ability to perceive and appreciate heavenly music.
At one point, heavenly music exposed to Marietta her discordant, unsanctified nature; her unfitness for Paradise. Apparently, the music was so holy and harmoniously perfect that, though she longed to unite with it, she was totally incapable of doing so. The result was excruciating, making heaven seem like hell to her. She needed a transformation of her very nature, made possible by the atoning work of her blessed Savior.
In times of great sorrow in heaven, associated with Christ suffering on earth for humanity’s sins, music ceased.
She described chanting demonic voices as ‘hoarse.’
Pain-racked day followed pain-racked night. Days crawled into weeks of loneliness and serious illness. Rebecca Springer cried out to the Lord.
Heaven’s response was remarkable. She was granted a lengthy vision, experiencing comfort and refreshing beyond this world’s power to impart. It seemed she had been transported to heaven. Though Rebecca found no way to measure time in her celestial surrounds, what transpired there would have filled very many earth days.
Afterwards, the memory remained indelibly etched upon her mind enabling her to convey to us a very detailed description. Assuming Mrs. Springer did not set out to deliberately deceive her readers, I know of no explanation for such a lengthy, consistent vision, other than a supernatural one.
The modesty of her claims regarding her experience points to the genuineness of her account. She even indicates an uncertainty as to how much what she saw corresponds to heavenly reality.
In her vision, Rebecca discovered a lake that enabled one to hear music produced a great distance away. Non-musical sounds were filtered out. On one occasion, these waters responded antiphonally to the chiming of a distant bell. ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,’ they seemed to chant. The result was a thrilling experience, beyond the powers of earthly language to describe. She seemed a part of it, even before adding her voice to that magnificent music.
Rebecca mentions other music-producing instruments. There were long, slender trumpets of gold, radiant harps and viols, and types of musical instruments she had never seen on earth.
She considered the Savior’s voice as He spoke far surpassed the melodic beauty of the angelic choir.)
Reference is made to musical training. A full reading of Rebecca’s account vaguely hints that whilst all of the redeemed enjoy heavenly music, only some specialize in it.
There was background music sometimes and also musical concerts.
Singing took many forms. Some was antiphonal, with the redeemed responding to the child-like voices of a cherub choir. There was singing interspersed with chattering and laughter while engaged in a heavenly craft. Another type commenced in response to her query as to the appropriate way to pray in heaven. A man led her in song. They had been alone in a celestial mansion, yet immediately the whole place seemed filled with invisible singers. In the unseen choir she recognized the voices of people she had known on earth who had entered glory. Cherubs also joined in. Never has earth heard ‘such a grand hymn of praise,’ she remarked. Another time, she speaks of joining ‘the solemnly joyous notes of the angel’s choral song’. She heard both soft and loud singing.
Like the Chinese orphans, Rebecca discovered that, whilst heaven was rich in new music, sacred music learnt on earth was not discarded. For instance, Edward Perronet’s, ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’ was sung with unearthly unity, harmony and volume. Perhaps because it was one of her favorites, angelic harpists elected to praise their God in Rebecca’s presence with Heber’s, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.’ (Imagine composing in your present life, music that is sung in eternity!)
This use of songs composed on earth had the stated purpose of forging links between the glorified existence of the redeemed and their former, earthly lives. Nevertheless, few things that on earth delighted God and His people, are likely to be slighted in heaven. Rebecca learnt that we bring to heaven the same tastes, desires and skills that we had on earth.
I burst out laughing at some of the things she saw in her vision. They seemed too much like this life – too human – to have a place in heaven. Upon reflection, I realized that when picturing the next life, we sometimes err in the direction of imagining almost no similarity to our present existence. Some of us were even shocked when we first heard of the resurrection of the body, and of angels and the risen Christ consuming food (Genesis 18:1-8; 19:1-3; Luke 24:41-43). Even such Scripturally-based phenomena initially seem too earth-like to be true.
Obviously, upon entering heaven, we leave behind everything defiled,
but we each take our humanness and distinctive personality with
us. If some committed Christians like playing a certain type of
music now, they will probably enjoy the same in heaven, though
they may well discover music there that they like even more.
In 1973 eight-year-old Roberts Liardon was about to commence his daily Bible reading when his spirit left his body and visited heaven. He believes he was granted the experience because of the fervent prayers of his devout grandmother. It was another eight years before he told anyone of his experience, though he sees nothing unique in it and he thinks other people will have similar heavenly visits. He ends his short account with an invitation for readers to pray a standard prayer for salvation. That eases my skepticism a little.
He claims to have seen in heaven a choir of 500 to 600 of the
redeemed. He does not mention their singing. What struck the little
boy was that they lifted their hands as well as their voices and
they danced. ‘It was a hundred times better than our praises on
earth! They went wild praising the Lord. Then the audience
joined in. . . . Everything within them was praising the Lord. . . .
And there was never a dead crescendo. . . . it always grew
in power and momentum’ (emphasis Liardon’s).
God spoke to the apostle Paul through a vision in which a Macedonian called him (Acts 16:9). A. C. Valdez, Jr. experienced something similar, only he was awakened from sleep by the sound of suffering humanity singing a plea for help in a minor key. After being healed, they sang a new, triumphant song of joy. Rev. Valdez went on to have a healing ministry.
This demonstrates a quite different aspect of heaven’s use of
Some things we are not yet permitted to know (2 Corinthians 12:14; Revelation 10:4). Some aspects of angelic music might fall into this category. Moreover, angels probably modify their song for the benefit of their audience. For example, the angelic song in Nagaland, India was directed specifically at the people. The impact was further magnified by the song being sufficiently simple for congregational singing. Perhaps accommodation was even made for Indian musical tastes, to ensure the popularity of the song.
Though I have no reason to suspect any of the instances cited in this chapter, I concede the possibility that some might not be authentic. It is beyond my powers of skepticism, however, to imagine that all reports of celestial music – only a fraction of which are mentioned here (see Appendix, Note 2.4) – are spurious. We have gathered ample evidence to confidently declare that heaven is a place of music.
Especially when heaven seems particularly ‘close’ – whether it be in times of revival, when engaged in genuine worship, when receiving a heavenly revelation, or when near the gates of death – we may be permitted to hear heaven’s music. Perhaps the Lord has allowed you to be a heavenly eavesdropper or you may know of reports I’ve missed. If so, I would dearly love to hear from you, with a view to adding to this book.
I trust you have allowed the accounts in this chapter to deepen your conviction that music is important to heaven. Let this belief reach its logical conclusion: if music is important to heaven, then heaven probably longs to influence not just in the spiritual results, but in the actual production of your music.
Scripture promises great things, however, not to those who are intellectually aroused, but to those who passionately ask, seek and knock. Let’s not let spiritual lethargy stop us from presenting to this needy world music that has more of heaven in it than we previously dreamed possible.
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