Imágenes de páginas

2. Let every one pursue the work of praise in his hours of private devotion. All who can speak have native talent sufficient for the ends of private edification. Multitudes who were never taught to sustain the melody of a tune, have acquired the important habit to which we refer-a habit which no considerations could afterwards induce them to relinquish. It becomes in such cases a rich source of spiritual improvement. The Psalmist appears often to have been singing alone. This may be inferred from the occasional language of his themes, as well as the circumstances that gave them birth. The primitive Christians appear to have acquired a similar habit. The Apostle says, “ Is any merry, (joyful,) let him sing psalms;' not, let him wait till the hour of some public performance. Luther understood the importance of this method of singing; so did the late President Edwards. The latter, during the years of his ministry, would often retire into forests and fields, spending hours together in singing aloud the joyous meditations of his heart.

3. Let there be singing uniformly at the family altar. This was one of the primitive practices that should never have been discontinued. It prevailed also among the reformers of the sixteenth century. At certain hours of the day, whole villages became vocal with the songs of praise. We see not why family praise is not equally as appropriate as family prayer. Why should we be so constantly asking favours of God, and as constantly neglecting to give thanks at the remembrance of his mercies ?” Devotional singing has a delightful influence upon families, and were it generally practised in the domestic circle, we should soon see a corresponding improvement in the music of our churches.

4. Children should be early taught to sing. Early cultivation, when rightly directed, is uniformly attended with success. The measure of this success will not always be equal ; but in those districts of country on either side the Atlantic, where juvenile instruction prevails, the imaginary distinction of natural and unnatural voices is never thought of. All are found to make progress in the art; and to receive impressions which will be lasting as life. And when we recollect that voices which have been neglected in childhood and youth, are afterwards prone, through the increasing difficulties of cultivation, to be neglected in riper years, we see at once the importance of commencing at the right period.

In places where vocal music is made one of the regular branches of primary education, the children become fond of the exercises, and

and the latter should by all means be made to flow with apparent ease and propriety.

7. The cultivation of right emotions in the singer is quite indispensable to just expression. This can never be done, without example seconded by appropriate effort, Efforts should also be repeated, till they result in the formation of a settled habit ; every thing short of this will fail to secure the desired end. :

And now, when it is remembered that such things as we have here enumerated are almost universally neglected in favour of the claims of notation, which also in their turn are but imperfectly sustained, it is easy to discover what improvements and facilities are wanting.

make rapid attainments in the art. Music is found to have an iinportant influence upon their temper, and conduct, and physical health. It furnishes also an interesting method of impressing moral and religious truth upon the understanding and the heart. Testimony to this effect is abundant and unequivocal. Much good, therefore, can be effected in the way of juvenile cultivation. Children can be taught in public schools, in private classes, at the Sabbath school, or at the domestic fireside. Why should not this species of instruction form one of the regular branches of a Christian education ? If the matter were so understood, the happiest results would follow. An entire generation might thus be raised up to unite in celebrating the praises of God, without a discordant voice.

5. A school of a peculiar character is needed for the cultivation of church music ;-one which shall not pursue the less important proper. ties of style, to the neglect of such as are essential to the interests of devotion ;-one which shall thoroughly develop the powers of vocal enunciation, in connexion with pious sentiments and motives. Mere secular cultivation has its uses. It can do much towards disciplining the vocal powers. When well conducted, it can promote skill and susceptibility almost to any extent. It can in these respects go far beyond what is ordinarily attained in our schools of church music. But there is one thing all essential to the interest we are advocating, which it never cherishes. It never cherishes a devotional spirit. True, the strains of secular music are sometimes deeply pathetic, carrying with them the imposing influence of solemnity; and especially so when applied to sacred words. But this influence, so far as religion is concerned, is often of a questionable character. It is more like the effect of religion dramatized, than like the genuine breathings of devotion. The latter are entirely of a different nature. They are by no means the necessary results of musical mechanism or imaginative sentimentality. They require special culture. They require self-examination, watchfulness, and prayer, and holy meditation; and where these are wanting, it is in vain to look for anything better than the subdued tastefulness of musical display. Unless religious influences, therefore, influences of a decided character,-are carried into our schools of Church music, and made to abide there, the habits of dulness on the one hand, and of imaginative sentimentality on the other, will continue to prevail. There will perchance be other things which in themselves are desirable. There may be taste, and skill, and verbal adaptation; and musically speaking, there may be pathos, and energy, and expression ; but after all, the fervours of genuine devotion will be wanting. This truth has been abundantly realized as a matter of history; and yet the churches are slow to understand it. Why do they not consider that a sacrifice which is so uniformly heartless in its preparation, will in all ordinary circumstances be heartless at the altar of public devotion ? The principle is perfectly plain and intelligible. One of two things, there. fore, is inevitable. Either we must relinquish all ideas of permanent reform among singers, in regard to spirituality, or else religious influences of an abiding character must be made to pervade our whole system of cultivation, from the nursery to the house of public worship.

6. Religious influences should, as far practicable, be carried into our larger concerts and rehearsals of sacred music. These are often as entirely secular in their character and tendency, as if the themes of song had actually been designed for the worship of some heathen divinity. Much of the music applied to sacred themes by the first masters in the art, is imaginative rather than devotional - more adapted to exhilarate the feelings of animal nature, than to win the pure affections of the heart to the love of Divine truth. Such music is often full of professional merit- tender, figurative, bold or sublime beautifully simple, or scientifically elaborate; but, like many other productions of human genius, it occupies the regions of taste without entering the recesses of the heart. Music of this kind is peculiarly attractive to a portion of the community; and there is in many places a propensity to substitute it even in the church, in place of that which is strictly devotional. This tendency is far from being lessened by concerts and rehearsals of the ordinary kind. Concerts of sacred music might doubtless be rendered occasions of religious improvement. When this is not done, their influence, to say the least, is of a questionable character.

7. If such an amount of responsibility, as we have seen, is involved in the office of praise, is it right to confide the whole management of this interest to a few inexperienced individuals ? This was not the primitive method. David and Asaph, and Heman, and Jeduthun, and the prophets, and the apostles, who led in the praises of God, were men distinguished for their piety and influence. The same was true of the ancient fathers and the modern reformers. Luther's example is conspicuous. He not only sung, but he compiled and composed music for the churches ; and while his sermons, that caused millions to tremble, are now forgotten, his Old Hundred and his Judgment Hymn may continue to edify the people of God to the remotest generations.

Music is the language of feeling. When cultivated merely for the purposes of personal gratification, emolument, distinction, or display, it is of course liable, in many instances, to awaken among its patrons and devotees, some of the worst passions of the human heart; but when it is cultivated strictly for social and beneficent purposes, and especially for the promotion of the praise and glory of God and the edification of his people, its tendencies are necessarily and decidedly of the opposite nature. It strengthens the social principle. It awakens sympathy, cherishes affection, and contributes to mutual gratification and refined enjoyment.

And here lies the true secret in management with regard to religious music. Such music is not to be obtained without labour and care. It will never produce, or regulate, or preserve itself. Its interests cannot safely be confided to those who are destitute of piety, or deficient in general influence. If music as a fine art has its difficulties and dangers, this is the very reason why devotional song should be more thoroughly taken in hand. Let the pulpit breathe the gentle language of instruction, persuasion, and encouragement, till the public conscience is well enlightened ; let singing-schools be religiously conducted ; and let influential members of the church

become meek advisers and participators in the exercises, and look to God for a blessing. Such a course will be attended with ultimate success. Only let information be given, and let the leading members of a church become active cultivators, under the prevalence of a truly Christian spirit, and all will be well. Music, in such cases, becomes a sweet harmonizer of the affections. Jealousies and differences in taste, and discrepancies of opinion soon disappear; and, under the influence of religious motives and feelings, the singers become united as a band of brethren, and cheerfully yield theinselves to the judicious, mild direction of those who have authority in the church. Such a result will not always immediately appear, especially when there has been previous mismanagement; but we believe it has seldom failed when there has been a becoming measure of perseverance. The experiment will at least be a safe one : while there will be neither safety nor success without it. Let the pastor and the members of the church thus assume their proper responsibilities; and singers in the end will be as easily guided as any class of people. A truly Christian spirit will prove irresistible. It will overcome every obstacle, and lead to the happiest consequences. To the absence of such a spirit is chiefly to be attributed the difficulties which often arise in the ranks of the singers.

But not to enlarge on the methods of operation. We have seen that there is sufficient need of effort in the way of reform; and that the work is not impracticable. All that is required by the existing aspect of things, CAN BE DONE. The songs of Zion can be fully redeemed from existing abuses, and rendered acceptable in His sight. All are interested in such a result ; and must share in the responsi. bility. All as individuals are bound to praise God in the best possible manner. The duty is just as universal as are the obligations to love and gratitude ; and amidst the endless diversity of talent there is something that every one can do. God proposes to be glorified in the offerings of praise. Who shall dare to rob him of his glory? And is it no crime to be negligent and heartless in the performance of such a duty ? Is it nothing that the offerings of praise often become an offence to God-a vain oblation-an unmeaning service-a system even of solemn mockery? All this, as we have seen, can be prevented ; and the methods of operation are before us. Let no one wait for the impetus of public sentiment; but let all awake to the claims of personal responsibility.

And shall not the praises of God ascend from every closet and from every family altar? Shall not the rising generation all be taught to sing? Shall not schools be better sustained and conducted as well as more numerously attended ? Shall not the pulpit give instruction, and those who have influence and authority in the churches awake to duty ? Or have love and gratitude no longer any claims upon us ? Or has it come to pass, that there is nothing so transcendently beautiful and glorious in the Divine perfections, as to demand a purer sacrifice of praise ? So thought not the men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost : “ Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness ; ' _“God is greatly to be feared in the assemblies of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all that come before him.”

Angels worship him, with veiled faces in the lowest prostration, though filled with the highest raptures of heaven. And while with such affections they cry, “ Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts," _“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty,”_" Who shall not fear thee and glorify thy name! - Amen, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Shall the same hallowed and exalted themes be uttered by the church militant, in a listless, discordant, irreverent manner, or at best be made the favourite subjects for musical enjoyment or professional display ? It must not be. Love and gratitude forbid it. The glory of God and the good of his people forbid it. Yet thus it will be, as heretofore, unless Christians awake to effort. There is no other possible alternative. Habitual neglect is universally punished with barrenness; and the principle is as important to individuals as to communities, and as applicable to musical enjoyment as to devotional spirituality. The men who consent to employ their gifts to the best advantage, and they alone, may expect, by the blessing of God, to find acceptance in the songs of praise,

But who are they that should be foremost in the ranks of improvement? Who shall stand up in the places of Asaph, of Heman, and Jeduthun- in the places of the prophets, and martyrs, and reformers, to lead in the praises of Zion? The disciples of the blessed Redeemer, so proverbial in these modern days for their delinquency, are bound by every consideration of love and gratitude, to be foremost in showing forth “ the praise of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light.” They above all others should be leaders in the hallowed enterprise. Their children should be the earliest to lisp hosannas to the Son of David. The closet, the family altar, the social circle, the religious singing-school, the house of God, should all bear testimony to the beauty, the frequency, and the fervour of their offerings of praise.

The time is not distant when the glory of the Lord shall fill the whole earth ; when the rocks, and the hills, and the valleys, and the islands, and the depths of the sea, shall reverberate with the songs of holy joy. How delightful the thought! What a lively picture will such a scene afford of that place where the pure rivers of pleasure are for ever flowing from the throne of God! There praise is an employment that shall never end. How pure, how sweet, how hallowed, how transporting must be the anthems of the blessed inhabitants above! Let us so cultivate the praises of God below, as to be prepared at length to unite in the universal, endless songs of heaven.

« AnteriorContinuar »