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tions, of whatever species, viz. the glory of God. In the two branches, then, of music and song, or, in plainer terms, of the tunes and words employed by us in our services, there is this general agreement to be observed; not only that the style of the accompaniment should be adapted to the nature of the psalm or hymn, so that the effect to be produced be accomplished, (I am not speaking in a mere musical sense,) but that both should conspire, as well as each aspire, to compose the mind, raise it to the source and object of our praises, and lead us onward to the worship of the Lord. It would not, for instance, be more absurd, or more abominable, to introduce the words of a wanton or a frivolous convivial song, than it would be to sing the " songs of Zion " in tones of merriment or boisterous sounds, that may, perhaps, excite, but cannot elevate, the feelings of a hearer, or may exhibit the ingenuity without halloaing the employment of the singer. In this respect there is too much reason to fear that that branch of the universal Church from which our own catholic Church has separated, and many of those classes who have seceded from our communion, as well as from that of Rome, are all in error, the one presuming on the pomp and splendour of its music, which captivates the animal, without benefiting the spiritual, part of our nature; the others, indulging in the use of unhallowed strains, and employing the trifling melodies of a carnal world, under the pretence of giving to God that which the devil has too often claimed.* In both cases, " I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." (Rom. x. 2.) Let our devotional strains, my brethren, be chosen and employed with reference to the object of our devotions; the frame, the temper, and the disposition of humble, pious, and sober-minded Christians; neither soaring into the heights of mere mental gratification, nor sinking into the depths of light and irreverent mirth. This, however, is but the smaller consideration of the two; for the most beautiful or most appropriate airs must be wholly lost upon us, as a religious exercise, if the words we utter do not befit our condition, or do not respond to the claims of the faith which we profess.
If we examine any of the sacred hymns recorded in the Bible, we shall find the allusions which they contain to have reference to the glory of God in the first instance, and, in the next, to the gratitude of his servants for some signal deliverance in particular, or the more general redemption wrought for mankind at large. In this respect, those hymns might be fairly challenged as of universal interest, and of universal value to the Church of God, unto the very end of time. Nay, we are authorised, from one particular allusion in the Book of Revelation, to consider them as preserved, like all other portions of holy writ, "for our learning and instruction." "And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, . . . stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." (Rev. xv. 2, 3.) This passage evidently refers to the song of triumph sung by
* The apology of Rowland Hill for some of his chapel melodies.
the shore of the Red Sea, after the deliverance from Pharaoh (Exod. x v.), or to that song which Moses spake in the ears of the people just before his death (Deut. xxxiii.); and from the circumstance of this thanksgiving being sung in the courts of heaven, we infer, what an examination of the sacred hymns throughout the Scriptures will confirm, that whether under the Jewish law, where Christ was figuratively worshipped by typical ordinances, or under the gospel dispensation, where he is worshipped as the predicted Messiah already come, the "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. i. 21); and, therefore, all their praises and adorations having respect to one object, and differing only in the relative circumstances of time, may, without any forced or unauthorized adaptation, be legally introduced into our liturgical services. It was upon this principle that the Psalms of David were first employed in christian churches; and upon the same principle they have maintained their ground, till within a recent period, in all unRomanised congregations, for nearly eighteen hundred years. Nor can those who reject them, as is now the fashion in some congregations, (where certainly there is no lack of zeal or profession of attachment to the time-hallowed institutions of ages), show any solid reason for so great an innovation as they advocate.
To use the words of Bishop Home, in the Preface to his learned and most pious Commentary on the Psalms, those sacred songs " are an epitome of the Bible, adapted to the purposes of devotion. They treat occasionally of the creation and formation of the world; the dispensations of Providence, and the economy of grace; the transactions of the patriarchs; the exodus of the children of Israel; their journey through the wilderness, and settlement in Canaan; their law, priesthood, and ritual; the exploits of their great men, wrought through faith; their sins and captivities; their repentances and restorations; the sufferings and victories of David; the peaceful and happy reign of Solomon; the advent of Messiah, with its effects and consequences; his incarnation, birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, kingdom, and priesthood; the effusion of the Spirit; the conversion of the nations; the rejection of the Jews; the establishment, increase, and perpetuity, of the christian church; the end of the world; the general judgment; the condemnation of the wicked; and the final triumph of the righteous with their Lord and King. These are the subjects here presented to our meditation. We are instructed how to conceive of them aright, and to express the different affections, which, when so conceived of, they must excite in our minds. They are for this purpose adorned with the figures, and set off with all the graces of poetry; and poetry itself is designed yet farther to be recommended by the charms of music, thus consecrated to the service of God i that so delight may prepare the way for improvement, and pleasure become the handmaid of wisdom, while every turbulent passion is calmed by sacred melody, and the evil spirit is still dispossessed by the harp of the son of Jesse !" (p. ii.) "And, therefore, ever since the commencement of the christian era, the Church hath chosen to celebrate the gospel mysteries in the words of these ancient hymns, rather than to compose for that purpose new ones of her own."(p- xxv.)
Having now stated the various arguments that our subject calls for, I must draw your attention to the object I have had in view in thus enlarging on this topic; and a few words will suffice for that purpose. If, my brethren, your minds have gone with mine in this lengthened discourse ; and if, as I hope, you have come to the conclusion with me, that it is according to the will of God, and the order of his service, that we should praise him, after the manner of his ancient people, with singing and music, employing therein the holy strains of the royal Psalmist; you will see that in providing a choir who shall enable us to "sing with understanding," we are discharging a duty to ourselves, as well as to the Almighty, and I therefore trust that the before-mentioned considerations will be a sufficient apology for urging on you the request to contribute liberally to a purpose which, when named to you at first, met your decided approbation.*
But I must not dismiss the subject without a parting word of exhortation as to the " spirit" of our congregational praise. "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also," should be the language, and the intention of all: but, if the "understanding"be an object with us, much more is " the spirit" of our prayer and praise. It is possible to sing the holiest strains of David to the most mellifluous notes that music has penned, and yet to worship God less sincerely, and less acceptably, than if we uttered the praises of our hearts to the most unharmonious sounds that ever floated on the winds of heaven.-f
"God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John iv. 24.) For, it is against the order of God's law, to transgress by such hypocrisy as praising him for blessings which we do not acknowledge, or for mercies which we do not feel. The arguments which apply to worship in general, and to all forms of prayer and devotion, apply equally to this; and we need c!o little more than ask ourselves, "what mean ye by this service?" (Exod. xii. 26,) to arrive at the true spirit, in which this prominent and component part of divine worship should be exercised. If the angels of God, the seraphim and cherubim, rest not day or night, crying, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts," (Isa. vi. 3 ;) if the redeemed cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created," (Rev. iv. 8, 11;) how much more have we need of their humility, as sinners, and of their fervour and zeal, as hoping to attain to their exalted privilege!" Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power." (Ps. xxi. 13.)
To those amongst us, however, whom we have delegated to conduct this part of our worship, and for whose especial benefit I would beseech a liberal contribution, I feel I have a duty to discharge in offering a few concluding words of warning and advice.
* This sermon was preached in aid of the first annual collection for a choir.
+ "Prayer is impiety, and praise a folly, if the one be not a real instrument of obtaining important benefits, and the other an authorised and acceptable offering to the Giver of all good."—Natural History of Enthusiasm, p. 25.
The situation which you have taken, and the office which you occupy, render it doubly necessary, on your part, to be cautious in what manner you perform the service you have undertaken. You are responsible to God for thus taking into your lips the praises of his holy name. If the inducement to engage in this duty is, in any way, the desire of popularity, the vanity of setting forth your skill, or the love of gain,— consider, I beseech you, what an account you will have to render up for the profanation of the name of the Lord, the house of the Lord, and the Sabbath of the Lord. Consider, I entreat you, how you can conscientiously boast of your performances, if you put yourselves, by an unholy interference in holy things, upon a level with the instruments with which your melody is made; if, in short, you resolve yourselves into machinery for the propagation of sound, regardless of the spirit of the words your lips may utter.
Under the ancient law, as you have heard, singers were set apart and were provided for ;—but those singers were considered in the light of holy men, priests, in short, of a distinct and honourable class; and had they not been holy in their lives and conversation, as well as skilful to play and to sing, the judgment of God, sooner or later, would have descended in wrath upon their heads. "Be ye" also " clean;" for though "ye bear" not " the vessels of the Lord," (Isa. Hi. 11,) like his immediate ministers, in an inferior degree ye do :—■" Ye stand on holy ground," (Exod. iii. 5 ;) " ye cannot serve God and Mammon," (Matt. vi. 24.) As Ezra said to the Levites, so am I commissioned to say to you: "Ye are holy unto the Lord ;" " the vessels," or instruments you use, "are holy also; and the silver and the gold" which you are now expecting to receive, " are" not the price, or the wages of an ungracious or an ill-conditioned service, the mere remuneration for gratification afforded by skill in music or singing, but " a free-will offering " of the congregation " unto the Lord God of vour fathers." (Ezra viii. 28.)
Mr. EniTOR,— That the question of the Church Societies is one of deep and increasing importance, cannot I think be doubted, and I feel unwilling to allow even another month to pass over without again inviting the serious attention of Churchmen to the deeply interesting subject; I would therefore, Mr. Editor, respectfully request of you to make public the few observations I may be enabled to offer.
It is on religious grounds chiefly that we would rest the powerful claims of our Societies to public support; but even apart from all such considerations, the wisdom of mustering Churchmen, and ranging them on the side of the Church, anil in support of her orthodox institutions, must be sufficiently obvious; for the very circumstance of the members of the Church combining for a good purpose must of necessity consolidate her strength, and prove in every way most advantageous to her.
Most of us seem to fear that a stormy day is coming—to feel that our Church Establishment (fraught with blessings as it is) is really in danger; that its enemies are alive and active, and individually its friends less vigilant and active than they ought to be—while, as a body, we have done little to avert the impending danger, or check the advance of the Church's insidious and inveterate foes. Now How This May Best Be Done, is the weighty and solemn question which ought to press itself on the mind of every attached Churchman; and to it a firm, a positive, and a decided answer must forthwith be returned.
"Neutrality in time of danger to the Church is no less an abandonment of the faith, than very short-sighted worldly policy." And believing, as I conscientiously do, that the interests of the Church are inseparably connected with the efficiency of the Church Societies, and knowing that the latter are very feebly and inadequately supported, even by many who profess themselves real friends of the former; and feeling, too, that the efforts of each individual Church member may be made powerfully operative to the stability and greater efficiency of our venerable Establishment; I am constrained to commend again and again the Church Societies to the affectionate patronage of every man amongst us: and I feel assured that, Under Present Circumstance?, we cannot possibly do better for our Church than make her own Societies the rallying point of our zealous and sober-minded exertions, and the channels of the conveyance to others of those streams of living waters which, while she is true to herself, flow perpetually from above into her " wells of salvation," and which all her grateful and intelligent children must ever esteem it their greatest "joy" to draw forth, and generously diffuse for the healing and refreshing of the nations. And, Mr. Editor, if great advantages are said to be likely to arise from the establishment, throughout the country, of well-regulated associations of our chief Church Societies, why should we hesitate, or seem reluctant, to try the experiment? Experiment, indeed, it ought not to be called; for if we labour aright, with humble dependence on the Divine blessing, and in proportion to our several means and opportunities, the result cannot be doubtful, for the Divine promise is most express—" My word shall not return void." "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree." Having, therefore, strong and just grounds of confidence in the success, sooner or later, of our well-directed efforts, let us be persuaded to open universally, and without delay, district committees of the Societies for Building and Enlarging Churches, Promoting Christian Knowledge, and Propagating the Gospel. Thus all classes will not only derive immediate benefit from the societies, but have facilities afforded them of contributing to their resources, and of course, under God's blessing, of greatly increasing their efficiency. But local associations are incomplete, and lose half their efficacy, if sermons be not preached at stated intervals of time, with the view of rousing christian sympathy into action, and directing its opera