« PreviousContinue »
the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth;" who rules all things, and orders all for good to them that love him; who oftentimes
"moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
They gloried and trusted in Him who is able to save to the uttermost; who possesses all power and all authority, all mercy to pardon, all ability to save; who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; who feedeth the young ravens that call upon him ; who keepeth the feet of his saints; who is compassionately loving and gracious; whose riches are unsearchable, whose tender mercy is over all his works; who is the rightful owner of all earthly goods; who gives them to whom he pleases for use, but not for trust; for instruments to his glory, and not for man's selfish gratification; as convenient means to assist man on his way, and not as sureties for his safe journey; as conveyances to help him forward, not as objects for undue regard, or slothful security.
Thirdly. It is time to refer to that practical part of the text which applies equally to all of us; "We," says the Psalmist, alluding to his own people as distinguished from the Ammonites and Syrians, and other heathens who trusted for victory in the multitudes of their chariots and horses; "we will remember the name of the Lord our God."
How, then, does our resolution, our inclination, stand on this point? on the side of the Ammonites and j Syrians, or on the side of the people of God? Do we remember the love of our Lord and only Saviour dying for us, submitting to agony and shame, that we might be delivered from the pollutions of the world, and the punishment of sin? Do we acknowledge his laws, recognize his example, as the rule of our life 1 look up to his promised crown of righteousness, as the only object worth living for, the only prize of our worldly or of our spiritual calling? Do we feel his blood to be our purification, his Spirit our true consolation, his promises our only sure hope and dependance, his merits our only refuge, his providential care and guidance our only trust for safety, through things temporal, unto things eternal?
O that we may be of those who seek the pearl of great price, the treasure in the heavens, the one thing needful, the wisdom which is from above, which comes from our Redeemer and our God! Unto all that believe, he is indeed precious. He is their wisdom, their strong salvation—" more precious than rubies;" and all that a man can desire is not to be compared with the blessing of his favour and protection. The love of Christ in the soul sanctifies every other possession, every talent, every good we possess. Without that, all our treasures are untried, untempered weapons, like Saul's armour to David. But the love of the Saviour, active within us, sanctifies all our strength, as Goliath's sword, when taken from the sanctuary of the temple by David, proved to be; for he said, " There is none like that; give it me." (1 Sam. xxi. 9.) Thus the grace of God acting upon the soul sanctifies all our lawful worldly pursuits, occupations, desires, and possessions. Like the gift said to be bestowed on a king of old, whatever it touches, it turns into gold. By directing the temporal use of earthly things, it renders what the worldly-minded pervert into a curse by trusting in,—a comfort and a blessing to the believer himself, and to all around him.
"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord: for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited." (Jer. xvii. 5, 6.) On the other hand, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is: for he shall be as a tree planted by the water, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Here is the blessing and the curse declared by the prophet at the command of his God, respecting those who remember the name and honour of God, and those who remember him not. These, then, are set before us; choose we which we would have. Let us ask of God to help us to choose that which shall be to his glory, and to our everlasting peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
AN HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF MUSIC*
A Hecent writer on music has observed, that "the expression of the passions, by vocal and appreciable sounds, is so natural, that we cannot but imagine its origin to have been coeval with that of the human race. The complaints of pain, and the exclamations of joy, required no other guide or tutor than the sentiment to be developed; and nature, faithful to herself, spoke in tones inspired and modulated by her feelings. The observation applies even to language. Though, in writing, a word is ever the same, in delivery, it is susceptible of a thousand different shadings, accommodated to the sense and the sensation meant to be conveyed. All those shadings, or variations, it is music's very office to furnish. The heart gives her the clue, but the voice is her own providing; the grief and the pleasure, the hatred and the affection, exist without her; but, without her, want their most forcible expression."f
There can be no doubt that the association of music with the worship of the Supreme Being is of the highest antiquity, although the earliest mention made of it in the Sacred Writings occurs after the destruction
• A Correspondent observing that our attention has of late been devoted to Psalmody, has favoured us with the above, which, we are informed, is taken from "The Psalmist;" a collection of psalm and hymn tunes, suited to all the varieties of metrical psalmody; newly harmonized for four voices, by Vincent Novello, and other eminent professors. The work is published in parts at 5s. each, and is in every way spoken of aa an excellent production.
f Dr. Bushy.
of the Egyptian host in the Red Sea. (See Exod. xv. 1.) The arrangement of verse and chorus displayed in the sublime song which, we are informed, was sung by Moses and the children of Israel on this occasion, must, however, be regarded as indicating a considerable proficiency in music on the part of the people at that period, and it is therefore very unlikely that this should be the first instance of its application to the purposes of devotion. Indeed, the most ancient literature of heathen nations abounds with examples of its being so employed by them in honour of their imaginary deities ; • rendering it by no means improbable that the union of music with the praises of God, like the offering of sacrifices, is derived by them from our first parents ; and, as it is said to enhance the joys of heaven.f it is not unreasonable to suppose that it varied the engagements and heightened the felicity of that state in which the progenitors of mankind were originally placed.
In the subsequent pages of Sacred History, several instances are given of the employment of vocal music in the devotional exercises of the ancient people of God. Thus we find them singing a song, recorded Numb. xxi. 17, 18, on being providentially supplied with water in the wilderness; and Moses was commanded by God to compose a song and teach it to the children of Israel, the object of which was to restrain them from idolatry; Deut. xxxi. 19, 20, xxxii.; and in the Book of Judges, chap. v. we learn that Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to the Lord for the avenging of Israel. Examples may be adduced in abundance from the writings of the prophets, showing their common recourse to music in their devotions, and expressive of their delight in it. Thus Isaiah prophesies, chap. xii. 4, 5: "And in that day ye shall say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name—Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things. Cry and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." The prayer of the prophet Habakkuk, chap. Hi., is evidently intended to be set to music, being dedicated or addressed, ver. 19, " to the chief singer on my stringed instruments." But it is needless to multiply instances of this kind, since the whole Book of Psalms, a collection of the compositions of various inspired writers, is acknowledged to have been written expressly to be sung in the service of God. A considerable portion of these divine poems are the productions of David, emphatically designated (2 Sam. xxiii. 1) "the sweet psalmist," or singer "of Israel." The arrangement of this part of public worship appears to have been an object of especial solicitude with this monarch. From the 1st Chron. xvi. 4, 5, we learn his appointment of certain Levites to minister before the Ark of the Lord, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel, with psalteries and with harps, with cymbals and with trumpets, which appear (chap, xxiii. 5) to have been instruments made under his own direction for the service of the sanctuary. Many of his psalms are addressed to particular singers, with directions for the melody to which they were to be sung, or the instrument most suitable
* See the Hymns of Homer, which are conjectured rather to have been collected than composed by him. Moreover, frequent mention is made, both in the Iliad and Odyssey, of those who sang the praises of the gods.
t See Rev. iv. 11; v. 9—14; xv. 2—I.
to accompany the singer.* In this part of the Sacred Writings the exhortations to " sing praises," to "make a joyful noise," to "sing aloud unto God," to "come before his presence with a song," to " sing praises unto him with timbrel and harp," are of constant occurrence; and a remarkable display of the Divine approbation is recorded, 2 Chron. v. 13, 14, when, after the completion of the temple by Solomon, and the bringing up of the ark, the king having set all the musicians in the order which David his father had appointed, "it came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voices with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God."
The services of the temple, as ordered by David and established by Solomon, were no doubt continued, with temporary interruptions, arising from the apostasy and wickedness of some of their successors, until the time of the captivity. On the restoration under Ezra, we find that when he had built the temple, "he set the sons of Asaph with cymbals to praise the Lord after the ordinance of David." (Ezraiii. 10.) And it may be presumed that, as the sufferings they had endured in Babylon had created in the minds of the people an utter abhorrence of idolatry, into which they never afterwards relapsed, the worship of God thus restored by Ezra was preserved in the temple until the birth of our Saviour, and during his residence on earth.
So far was our Lord from discountenancing the use of music, that it is evident he sanctioned it by his own example. After the last Supper we are informed that he sang a hymn with his disciples (see Matt. xxvi. 30, Mark xiv. 26): and this hymn is supposed to be the cxiiith. and five following psalms, called by the Jews " the great Hallelujah," and usually sung by them in their several families during the celebration of the passover. The incidental manner in which this circumstance is recorded by both Evangelists, seems to imply that this exercise was customary with our Lord, and his frequent quotations from the Psalms may be adduced as confirmatory of such a supposition, -f
• The ancients, as is observed by St. Augustine, made this difference between a canticle or song, and a psalm, that the former was sung by a voice alone, but the latter accompanied with a musical instrument.—Rees's Cycle, Art Psalm.
f The learned and pious Bishop Home, in the Preface to his Commentary on the Psalms, has the following beautiful remarks: "This little volume, like the Paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, though in miniature, every thing that groweih elsewhere, ' every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food:' and above all, what was there lost, but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden. In the language of this divine book, the prayers and praises of the Church have been offered up to the throne of grace from age to age. And it appears to have been the manual of the Son of God in the days of his flesh, who at the conclusion of his last supper, is generally supposed to have sung a hymn taken from it, who pronounced on the cross the beginning of the twenty-second Psalm, and expired with a part of the thirty-first Psalm in his mouth. Thus He, who had not the Spirit by
VOL. XVII. NO. VI. Z Z
That singing the praises of God was practised by the Apostles, and enjoined by them as a duty on the followers of Christ, is fully shown both in the history of their Acts, and in their Epistles. In the former we find it the employment of the Apostles and the first converts on the day of Pentecost (Acts ii. 47), and of Paul and Silas when imprisoned at Philippi, chap. x. vi. 25. And in the Epistles of St. Paul, we find singing noticed as in connexion with the duties of exhortation, meditation, and prayer ; (See Col. iii. 16; Eph. v. 19; 1 Cor. xiv. 15 ;) whilst St. James recommends singing of psalms, as the appropriate expression of christian joy, James v. 13.*
In accordance with these directions, we find the primitive Christians, even in times of the utmost peril, celebrating the praises of the Saviour of the world, disregarding the danger of attracting the notice of their relentless persecutors. Pliny the younger, in the first century, in an epistle to Trajan (Ep. 97), informs the emperor that the Christians usually rise before day, and join together in singing a hymn to Christ as God; and according to Tertullian, this, and their neglect of sacrifice, were the only grounds of his deadly hatred of them. Many of those who were called to seal the truth with their blood, are said to have expired with songs of praise upon their lips. Justin Martyr (in the second century), in his Apology, recommends our "approving ourselves grateful to God, by celebrating his praises with hymns." Origen, in his reply to Celsus, says, "We sing hymns to none but the Supreme Being, and to his only Son." Philo Judseus, in describing the nocturnal assemblies of the Essenes, who according to Eusebius were Christians, gives an interesting account of the manner in which this part of their worship was conducted. He says they selected from the assembly two choirs—one of men, and one of women; and from each of these choirs a person of majestic appearance, and well skilled in music, was chosen to conduct the choir. They then chanted hymns to the praise of God, in different measures or modulations, sometimes singing together, and sometimes answering each other by tums. Eusebius, who flourished in the fourth century, tells us that at the consecration of the churches throughout the Roman dominions, there was one common consent in chanting forth the praises of God. From that time to the present, without intermission, singing has constituted a part of divine worship wherever Christianity has been planted; and according to the concurrent testimony of several of the Fathers, this part of the public service of the Christians had a powerful influence in attracting and converting the heathen to the reception of the benign and heavenly doctrines of the cross.
The important station thus assigned to music, in early times, as the handmaid of devotion, has excited a natural desire to ascertain its precise
measure, in whom were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and who spake as never man spake, yet chose to conclude his life, to solace himself in his greatest agony, and at last to breathe out his soul, in the Psalmist's form of words rather than his own."
* It is difficult to believe that those persons who treat this duty with indifference, can have fully considered the express injunctions of the Apostles in the passages quoted above. Certainly nothing could be more foreign from their meaning than what the conduct of such persons would imply,—that it is a mere matter of option whether to sing or not.