John Wesley’s Rules for Congregational Singing

John Wesley by William Hamilton

The Wesleys (John and Charles) had a profound impact in proclaiming the message of Jesus in the 18th century. Charles Wesley penned over 6500 hymn texts in his lifetime, including hymns we sing at church like “Arise My Soul Arise“, “And Can It Be“, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today“, and “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing“.

Apparently, to encourage his congregation in sung worship, John shared with them the following rules:

  1. Sing All – see that you join the congregation as frequently as you can.
  2. Sing Lustily (with vigour and vitality) – and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half-dead or half-asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.
  3. Sing Modestly – do not bawl so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation that you may not destroy the harmony, but strive to unite your voices together so as to make one melodious sound.
  4. Sing In Time – whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before and do not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices and move therewith as exactly as you can and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.
  5. Sing Spiritually – have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature.

Helpful for any Christian!


“Make a joyful noise to the  Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” – Psalm 98:4 (ESV)

2 replies on “John Wesley’s Rules for Congregational Singing”

  1. Have been enjoying reading your posts – come visit me! I’m blogging on lots of stuff about music ministry that you have been writing on. I love that book review too, and the comments on worship wars! And if you don’t mind I will reblog this list of Wesley’s comments on singing. Priceless!

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