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miration. “We see no contrivance, admire no execution, but our minds are open and passive to the impression.” We judge of the goodness of the music, by the impression we feel, which is the most infallible criterion of its real excellence.
2. It is highly proper, that sacred music should be connected with poetry, in order to promote private and public devotion. Melodious sounds hare only 3 mechanical operation on the mind; but when they are united with appropriate language, they produce a moral effect. For this reason, mankind have always connected music and poetry together. It appears, that poetry was first devised and composed for the sake of music. Though men never conversed in poetry, yet their first premeditated compositions were poetical. The time was, when tradition supplied the place of history. This tradition was handed down from one generation to another, by poets, who composed memoirs of past transactions and events in metre, and set them to music, to be sung at stated anniversaries, or on other public occasions. This practice continued until the time of Moses, when alphabetical writing was first revealed to mankind. Afterwards histories began to be written, and superseded, in a great measure, the use of poetical narratives. But the connexion between music and poetry was still preserved. The Israelites, at the overthrow of Pharaoh, sang the praises of God in the most beautiful and sublime poetry. And when they had arrived at Judea, God commanded them to sing his praise in those sacred psalms, which were composed under the influence of a divine inspiration. Nor has the New Testament dissolved the sacred connexion between music and poetry. The apostle directs Christians not only to sing, but to sing in psalms, or hymns, or spiritual songs. This is always proper
in devotional music, which has immediate reference to God, who is the only proper object of religious worship. How absurd would it be, for instance, to celebrate the birth-day of Washington, by mere music, without any ode or hymn adapted to the occasion! And how much more absurd would it be, to celebrate the character, the works, and the ways of God, by mere music, without using any psalm or spiritual song, to bring those great and glorious objects into view! 'There can be no religious affection without the perception of some religious object. Some part of the divine character or the divine conduct must be seen, in order to exercise any right affection towards God. And since it is the sole design of sacred music, to excite or express devout and holy affections towards the Divine Being, it should always be connected with some significant and appropriate language, either in prose or poetry.
3. Sacred music should not only be connected with words, but adapted to their sense, rather than to their sound. When music is adapted to the mere sound of words, it can serve no other purpose than to please the ear; but when it is adapted to the proper meaning* of a psalm or hymn, it not only pleases the ear, but affects the heart. It is here, that both composers and performers of sacred music are most apt to tail. How often do composers appear to pay more regard to the sound than to the sense of the words, which they set to music. And how often do performers make choice of festival, instead of sacred music, in singing psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, on the Sabbath. All music, which is employed in religious worship, should be truly serious, because religion is a serious matter. It consists in a realizing sense of the being and perfections of God, and in exercising right affections towards him. It becomes every intelligent creature to feel solemn, while contemplating and worshipping the Supreme Majesty of heaven and earth. Even to rejoice in God is something very different from rejoicing in the world. There is always a levity in worldly joy, but there is not the least levity in religious joy. Religious joy, resembles the joy of heaven, which is no less solemn than sincere. Hence religious joy as well as every other religious affection, ought to be expressed, not by festival, but by sacred music, or a music congenial with those pious affections, which are excited by psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. In a word, sacred music ought to be adapied to the great design of sacred poetry, which is to destroy levity, and promote solemnity and devotion, in private and public worship.
* Note 3:
4. Sacred music can never produce its best effect, unless it be performed with true sincerity. There ought to be a perfect concord between the music, the words, and the heart. It is a just observation, that no man can speak well, unless he feels what he says; and it is equally true, that no man can sing well, unless he feels what he sings. The highest graces of music flow from the feelings of the heart. Those who sing the praises of God, must possess truly sublime, solemn, tender feelings, in order to fill the minds of a religious assembly with similar emotions and affections. Besides, we are to consider the performance of sacred music, as an act of the highest homage to God. So the apostle recommends it to Christians in the text. “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” He requires those who worship him, to worship bim in spirit and in truth. Accordingly the apostle Paul resolved, that he would not only pray with the spirit, but also sing with the spirit. And all who
are capable of singing with the understanding are under peculiar obligations to sing with the spirit, and make melody in their hearts to the Lord. He looketh on the heart, and not on the voice, or any outward appearance. He cannot be deceived, and he will not be mocked, with a solemn sound upon a thoughtless tongue.
This subject teaches us, in the first place, that sacred music ought to be entirely vocal. In the early ages of the world there was no such thing as instrumental music. It was after music was reduced to an art, that instrumental and vocal music were united. And it is readily conceded, that this union is really necessary to carry festival and martial music to the highest degree of perfection. It is the ultimate design of these soits of music, to gratify the ear, please the imagination, and exhilarate the spirits. And musical in. struments of all kinds are calculated to produce these agreeable effects. But it is the proper and professed design of sacred music, to raise the heart to God, and fill the soul with a holy and rational devotion. This pious purpose instrumental music has a much greater tendency to obstruct, than to promote. For it appears from what has been said, that sacred music ought to be always connected with words, and adapted to their proper meaning: but so far as instrumental music is heard, just so far it hurts instead of helping the sense of sacred music, and if carried to a certain degree, entirely destroys it. And when the sense of sacred music is destroyed, it is no longer a devotional exercise, but a mere diversion or festival entertainment. It is granted, that instrumental music may increase the melody and harmony of sacred music, as well as of any other; and were these the only, or principal things to be regarded in sacred music, instruments might be admitted into the church. But mere melody and harmony are not the only, nor principal things to be regarded in sacred music, and therefore these things ought to be sacrificed to the great and ultimate design of sacred music, which is to affect the heart in the view of the glory and majesty of God.
But here some may be ready to ask, why were musical instruments once used in the public worship of God, by his own appointment; and why is it not as lawful and proper to use them for the same purpose under the gospel, as under the law?
To this it may be sufficient to reply, that God appointed instrumental music in the temple service, for the same reason, that he directed the temple to be decorated with the richest ornaments, the high priests to be arrayed in the most beautiful and costly robes, and all the sacred utensils to be made of solid silver and gold. This magnificence of the temple and of all its appendages, was necesary to render it a proper type of Christ, and an effectual bulwark against idolatry. But now Christ has come in the flesh, and taken the Gentiles as well as the Jews into his spiritual kingdom, there is no longer any occasion for instrumental music, nor any other external pomp and parade in public worship. The instruments of music used in the templeservice were all appointed by God, and separated from a profane to a sacred purpose. And since we have no such musical instruments of divine appointment under the gospel, what right have we to appoint any, or to use any, without a divine appointment? All musical instruments, which are now used in our churches, except the organ, are employed in festival and martial music, and naturally suggest festival and martial ideas, which ought to have no place in the minds of those who are engaged in religious worship. In the time o