« PoprzedniaDalej »
As a fitting sequel to these reflections on the good man's discourse, may we not now enquire into the causes of the decline of sacred music in our Scottish Churches, as you could not but have been most forcibly struck to-day with the extreme bauchness, and the very cold, and inefficient state of this part of the service. In general the persons appointed to lead the psalmody, and the great majority, if not nearly all of the members and adherents of our congregations in the country, come to the sanctuary on the Sabbath day, with little or no preparation whatever for that part of the service in which only they are permitted to engage, the reasons in most instances being, that the latter cannot learn what the other is utterly incapable of communicating, the former being often destitute even of an ear for music, and oftener entirely ignorant of the very first elements of the science.
It was not always so. Music was cultivated under express divine sanction in the Jewish Church, and from the time of David held a high place as part of the public worship of God. When David was old and full of years, the number of the Le vites above thirty years of age, was thirty-eight thousand, and out of this number four thousand praised the Lord with the instruments which he had made. The Songs of Solomon, his successor, we are informed, were one thousand and five, and all his arrangements for the celebration of public worship were on a scale of even greater magnificence than those of David. These were not mere Jewish appointments. Devotional singing was earlier than Judaism, as is seen in the hymn of praise sung by Moses and Miriam on the shores of the Red Sea. It is as early as the creation itself, for when the copestone thereof was laid, “The morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”
The spiritual priesthood under the New Testament, perpetuated the appointment of praise as the duty of the whole church,—“That they should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.” Jesus Himself sang an hymn with His disciples on the
night in which He was betrayed. Paul in his epistle to the church at Corinth, says,—“when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm." He exhorts the Colossian Church, also, to “admonish one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs."
Approaching our own day, D'Aubigné says—" The souls of Luther and his contemporaries, elevated by faith to the most sublime contemplations, roused to enthusiasm by the dangers and struggles which incessantly threatened the infant church, inspired by the poetry of the Old, and the hope of the New Testament, soon began to pour out their feelings in religious songs, in which poetry and music joined, and blended their most heavenly accents, and thus were heard reviving in the sixteenth century, the hymns, which, in the first century, soothed the sufferings of the martyrs. Many were the hymns composed, and rapidly circulated among the people, and greatly did they contribute to arouse their slumbering minds."
Calvin and Knox were both enthusiastic lovers of music, the former establishing the singing of psalms as a distinguished and important part of public worship ; and the latter compiling a work on sacred music to give an increased impetus to the general cultivation of the divine science. And until lately psalmody was cultivated with much success, and was universally popular in our own country. Calderwood relates the return of John Durie to Edinburgh, thus :—“ As he was coming from Leith to Edinburgh, upon tuesday the fourth September, there met him at the Gallow Greene two hundredth men of the inhabitants of Edinburgh. Their number still increased till he came within the Nether Bow. There they beganne to sing the 124th Psalme, 'Now Isrrael may say,' &c., and sang in foure parts, knowne to the most of the people. They came up the street till they came to the Great Kirk, singing all the way to the number of two thowsand.”
It thus appears, that in the Jewish and New Testament Churches, as well as in the churches of the Reformation, in this and other lands, the place assigned to praise as a part of the worship of God, was distinguished and prominent, and that every exertion was used by kings, priests, and ministers, to encourage and keep alive in the minds of the people, the glowing flame of divine song.
Why has it declined to its present miserably low state amongst the churches in Scotland ? Why is so little interest taken in the cultivation of sacred music in an age conspicuous above all others, for its rapid advancement in philosophy and literature, in science and art ? Has the worship of God lost
? any of its charms, or the Songs of Zion any of their sweetness ? Alas, alas! In this romantic land of poetry and song, with its deeds of glory and of fame strung to the loftiest strains of national music, and sung with enthusiastic rapture, on every hill-side and in every glen, the sublime praises of Divine Worship are either in a languid, cheerless state, or altogether neglected; no joyous, well-sustained, melodious hymn of gladness rising like the hallelujahs of heaven from the Sanctuary of the saints on earth.
What shall we say then to break the slumbering apathy and arouse the minds of our countrymen to their former ardour and enthusiastic love of the sweet Songs of Zion ? Shall we exclaim with Baxter_“A choir of holy persons singing melodiously the praises of Jehovah, are most like the angelical society." Or with Edwards—“As it is the command of God that all should sing, so all should make conscience of learning to sing, as it is a thing which cannot be decently performed at all without learning. Those, therefore, who neglect to learn to sing, live in sin.” With Luther—" I verily think, and am not ashamed to say, that next to divinity no art is comparable to music;" or join with him in singing his own sublime hymn
“ Eine vaste burg ist unser Gott".
Or, leaving man's saying, shall we quote the injunctions and admonitions of Holy Writ ?—“Let the people praise Thee, O Lord ; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, shall bless us." “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good : sing praises unto His name, for it is pleasant.” “Let us come - make haste-before His presence with thanksgivings, and make a joyful noise unto Him with Psalms."
But a divine vision now floats before my entranced and dazzled eyes :-Heaven with its unspeakable glories unfolds itself to view-with jewelled harps and crowns of gold, on sunny wings the angels fly—arrayed in robes of white, and wearing diadems of glory, redeemed ones tread the golden streets of Paradise -- softly o'er its amber bed flows the river of life among the groves of amaranth-celestial music fills and ravishes my soul-in holy unison my heart vibrates with sweet exulting joy-and hark! a voice cometh out of the throne saying—“Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye
–“ that hear Him, both small and great."-And I hear, " as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, ALLELUJAH : FOR THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNETH!
THE farm and mill of Airniefoul, the birthplace of the writer, is pleasantly situated in the extreme east corner of the Glen of Ogilvy. Surrounded on all sides by a mountainous belt of hills, the lonely glen is, apparently, completely isolated from the outer world. Yet, it is not so. The county town is within a few miles distance, and populous hamlets and villages encompass it on all sides; while the Howe, or Valley of Strathmore, stretches away in its sylvan beauty beyond; the long rugged range of the Sidlaw Hills grim towering dark between.
It was now autumn; the fields in their golden yellow were ripening luxuriantly for the sickle ; and all was bustle and preparation at Airniefoul for the approaching harvest. A re-union of two loving and trusting hearts had just taken place within its precincts. Kate, the only daughter of the worthy farmer, and Jeanie Morison, a former school companion in a neighbouring city, had met the evening before after a separation of many years, the latter the invited guest