Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of her death; as all they are likely to be in their hearts, who are either ashamed of the condescension, or can find nothing chearful and pleasant in the worship of the God of Israel. However this may be, it must be admitted, that nothing adds so fully to the expression of joy, as the sound of instruments accompanying the voice. When the mind is intent upon some great object, then all the aids of speech are called for. They are, therefore, never so proper and necessary as in the praises of God, the best and the greatest. When you glorify the Lord, (saith the son of Sirach) evalt him as much as you can ; and when ye eralt him, put forth all your strength, and be not weary, for you can never go far enough. Ecclus xliii. 30. Here music appears in its proper character: but to call in the assistance of great sounds to magnify little or worthless things, is absurd and ridiculous. The powers of speech are more than they deserve : but certainly, laborious celebration, when dedicated to trifles, is to the reproach of human judgment. The winds of heaven, and the waves of the ocean, which can transport the loftiest ships, were not intended to float a cork, or to drive a feather. When the highest music is applied to the highest objects, then we act with reason and propriety, and bring honour to ourselves, while we are promoting the honour of our Maker. If a musician has any sense of great things, they must lead him to higher performances in his art than little things: they call for an higher sort of expression; and accordingly we find, in fact, that masters have exceeded themselves when their talents have been turned to divine subjects in the service of the church; in whose archives are to be found the most sublime andexcellent of all musical compositions. What is tae sense and subject of the most perfect piece of music in the world, but the humiliation of man, and the exaltation of God? Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name be the glory! In truth, there is nearly the same proportion between the music of the church and the music of secular assemblies, as between the venerable Gothic aile of the cathedral and the common chamber; and there is the like difference in their effects upon the mind; for its elevation and enlargement are better than its levity; and rapture is above mirth.

It may have been made a question by some people, more melancholy than wise, and soured with the principles of spurious reformation, whether instrumental music may be lawfully applied to divine worship. But it is no question at all. The voices of men are to speak the praises of God: but not they alone. Every devout and well-informed mind hears the whole frame of nature, the world and all things that, are therein, joining in one great instrumental chorus to the glory of the Creator. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad—let the sea make a noise, and all that therein is; let the floods clap their hands—let the field be joyful, let the vallies sing—let all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord. This is a grand sentiment, sufficient to overpower and confound all the sullen objections of enthusiastic melancholy*, and to awaken the stupidity of indevotion itself. Here the whole inanimate creation is musical: and the thought hath been plainly borrowed by our best poet in his supposed hymn of Adam and Eve in Paradise; which will naturally occur to the memory of those who are acquainted with it. Sounds from inanimate bodies, such as musical instruments, are, therefore, undoubtedly to be used in divine worship; and all ages and nations of the world have admitted them. On occasion of the overthrow of Pharaoh and his host, Miriam the prophetess took a timbrel in her hand to celebrate the glorious triumph of the Lord. In the service of the tabernacle and temple, all kinds of instruments were used, and bands of singers and musicians were appointed in so great a multitude, that their sound must have produced an astonishing effect. A father of the church informs us, that the music of the temple, on great occasions, from the multitude of performers, and the elevation of the place, was heard to the distance of ten miles. That the songs of Sion were usually accompanied by the harp, according to the exhortation in the text, appears from the 137th Psalm. Even the Heathens, in their sacred festivals, retained the use of instrumental music. When the golden image was set up in the plain of Dura, the signal was given for the act of adoration by the sound of all kinds of instruments.

* Amongst other laws, equally extravagant, established in a Democratical province of fanatics in America, we find the following: "No man shall keep Christmas, read the Common Prayer, eat minced pies, or play on any instrument, except the di uni, trumpet, and Jews-harp.

In the lowest state of the church, whea the sufferings of our blefled Saviour were at hand, himself and the company of his disciples still followed the custom of adding music to their devotions: they sung an hymn. Pliny, the minister of the emperor Trajan, tells his master how the first Christians made it their practice to sing hymns to Jesus Christ, as to God. We are surely not to wonder, if instruments were not used while the church was in an afflicted and persecuted state : it could have no organs when it had no public edifices to put them in, supposing them to have

VOL. IV. G

been then in use: but when the church was supported and established by the kingdoms of the world, it assumed a like form of worship with that which prevailed in the prosperous days of David and Solomon.

We find organs in the church as early as the seventh century, near 1200 years agoj. And here let all the admirers of the musical art step a while to reflect with gratitude and devotion, that ihe invention of choral harmony in parts arose from the Trinitarian worship of the Christian church. It is certain, we have no music of that form extant in the world, but such as is Christian; nor do we read of any: and had it not been for the schools of music, established and maintained by the church, I wiil venture to say, there had, at this day, been none of that excellent music with which all of us are now charmed, and I hope, many of us edified. Look out of Christendom into the kingdoms of China, Tartary, Turkey, and the regions of the southern world, and you will discover no music but what is beggarly and barbarous, fit onlyto amuse the ears of children or savsges. Every thing that is great and excellent in this way, hath come down to us from the Christian church. O holy and blessed society, which hath thus introduced us.to all that we can know and feel of heaven itself! How shall we . celebrate thee, how shall we cultivate and adorn thee, according to what we have derived from thee!, Let others be cold and indifferent, if they will, to 'our forms of worship; but upon musicians, if they know themselves, religion hath a particular demand; for they would never have been what they are, if God in his infinite goodness, had not brought us to the improvements of the Gospel.

If we proceed now to enquire, what are the subjects to which music may be applied, we shall find the chief

-/

of them set down for us in the 33d Psalm; where the righteous are directed to praise the Lord with instruments of music, because his word is true, and all his works are faithful. The wisdom of his word, and the wonders of his works, are, therefore, to be celebrated in our sacred songs • he is to be praised as the defender of his people, giving victory to their arms against their heathen enemies; feeding, healing, and delivering out of all danger those who trust in him, aa their help and their shield. To all these subjects music may be applied; and this is the use we make of it in tbeTe Deum, and all the hymns of the morning and evening service; to the words of which, such strains of harmony are adapted in this our Church of England, that the world cannot shew the like.

But as the mind has another language of sighs and tears, very different from that of praise and triumph, so the scale of music affords us a melancholy key with the lesser third, and a mournful sort of harmony proceeding by semi-tones, which is exceedingly fine and solemn, and reaches to the bottom of the soul, as the lighter sort of music plays upon the top of it. That musical sounds are applicable to prayer and supplication and penitential sorrow, none will doubt, who hears the Anthem, / call and cry; or that other, Call to remembrance, O Lord; by two of our most ancient and excellent composers*: or that versicle of the Burial Office, Thou knozcest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts, by the greatest of modern masters f. Thus much for the subjects of music.

The form of the Anthem derives itself naturally from the structure of some of the Psalms, in which we *o frequently find the soliloquy, the dialogue, and the

* Tallis and Farrant. + Purcel.

« AnteriorContinuar »