« PreviousContinue »
pleasure and devotion for ages past. But the works of some other self-recommended composers, not half-learned in their art, are generally better accepted; as many of the common people are found to have a better opinion of a mountebank than of a physician who has a talent for his profession, and is possessed of all the improvements of science."
Bishop Horne thus comments on Psalm cl., 3, 4, 5: “It is impossible for us to distinguish and describe the several sorts of musical instruments here mentioned. This much is clear, that the people of God are commanded to use all the various kinds of them. And why should they not be used under the Gospel? We read of Sacred Music before the Law, in the instance of Miriam the prophetess, who, to celebrate the deliverance from Pharoah and the Egyptians, 'took a timbrel in her hand, and the women went out after her with timbrels and dances. The custom, therefore, was not introduced by the Law, nor abolished with it.
Well regulated music, if ever it had the power of calming the passions, if ever it enlivened and exalted the affections of men in the worship of God,-purposes for which it was formerly employed,—doubtless hath still the same power, and can still afford the same aids to devotion. When the beloved disciple was in spirit admitted into the celestial choir, he not only heard them ‘singing' hymns of praise, but he heard likewise, 'the voice of harpers harping upon their harps. And why that, which the saints are represented as doing in heaven should not be done, according to their skill and ability, by saints on earth; or why instrumental music should be abolished as a legal ceremony, and vocal music, which was as much so, should
be retained, no good reason can be assigned. Sacred music, under proper regulations, removes the hindrances of our devotion, cures the distraction of our thoughts, and banishes weariness from our minds. It adds solemnity to the public service, raises all the devout passions in the soul, and causes our duty to become our delight.
“Of the pleasures of heaven,' says the eloquent and elegant Bishop Atterbury, 'nothing further is revealed to us, than that they consist in the practice of holy music and holy love, the joint enjoyment of which, we are told, is to be the happy lot of all pious souls to endless ages. It may be added that there is no better way of combating the mischievous effects flowing from the abuse of music, than by applying it to its true and proper use. If the worshippers of Baal join in a chorus to celebrate the praises of their idol, the servants of Jehovah should drown it by one that is stronger and more powerful, in praise of Him who made heaven and earth. If the men of the world rejoice in the object of their adoration, let the children of Zion be joyful in their King."
“Instrumental music," says Richard Baxter, “in worship, was set up by God. It is a natural help which it is our duty to use. Jesus joined with the Jews who used it. The last psalm enjoins it. No Scripture forbids it; and if any object to it as a human invention, so are our tunes with which we praise God with the voice."
Lowth, Beveridge, Hooker, and many other eminent divines, together with the most distinguished names of modern times, might be cited as worthily appreciating “the might of song,” and desirous that it should be more thoroughly and extensively studied.
"If music,” says the Rev. William Jones, whom we have already quoted, “is a gift of God for our good, it ought to be used as such for the improvement of the understanding and the advancement of devotion. It is loose and irreligious people only who have a dislike and contempt of divine music. They are right," he says, “for it would carry them out of their element; but God forbid that we should be as they are.
they are. No, let us keep our music and amend our lives."
Praise, we have said, is the highest act in which man can engage on earth. It is the occupation of saints in glory, and of the holy angels.
"For all we know Of what the blessed do above,
Is that they sing and that they love." Jeremy Taylor, speaking of the glory and greatness of the empyreal heaven, the lustre of the celestial city, and the delights of the blessed citizens, says:
“The ears shall be filled with most harmonious music, as may be gathered from many places of the Scripture: If the harp of David delighted Saul so much, as it assuaged the fury of his passions, cast forth devils, and freed him of that melancholy whereof the wicked spirit made use; and that the Lyre of Orpheus wrought such wonders both with men and beasts, what shall the harmony of heaven do? What delight then will it be, not only to hear the voice of one instrument, played upon by an angel, but all the voices of thousands of angels, together with the admirable melody of musical instruments ? What sweetness will it be to hear so many heavenly musicians, those millions of angels, which will be sounding forth their hallelujahs unto the great God
of heaven and earth? O how I desire to be freed from this body, that I might hear and enjoy it: Happy were I, and for ever happy, if after death I might hear the melody of those hymns and hallelujahs which the citizens of that celestial habitation, and the squadrons of those blessed spirits sing in praise of the Eternal King; This is that sweet music which St. John heard in the Apocalypse, when the inhabitants of heaven sung, Let all the world bless thee, O Lord; to thee be given alt honour and dominion for a world of worlds, Amen."1
The service of song ought, therefore, to be of our noblest, our purest, and our best; nothing careless, trivial, much less discordant, being admitted either in composition or performance, but “grave sweet melody," worthy of so exalted a theme.
"Mind possesses an invincible tendency to ascend to the level of its source." If music be, as is affirmed, the only art which has received no taint from the fall—containing in itself the essential elements of all order, harmony, beauty, or perfection-its language deep, universal, pure, and spiritual, being of itself, even in secular forms, utterly innocuous, styled “harmless syren" by Milton, and thus admirably defined by Shakspere, in a single line, from The Tempest
“Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not”it follows that the musician can find no higher or more exalted function than in the endeavour, himself to rise on wings of adoration and elevate the hearts of others to behold the great fountain-head—the perennial spring, whence flows all light, love, or harmony.
1 "State of Man,” Bk. II., C, V., pp. 161-2.
"Then there is mirth in heaven,
The musician, therefore, open to spirit influences, will listen "all ear" to the voices of external Nature, and to the deep voice of the heart. He will thus be enabled to reveal more of those deep mysteries after which the highest Art ever yearns, and in doing so—pure in spirit and in truth-will "give resounding grace to all heaven's harmonies!”