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ardent piety, as well as of respectability and influence, had the entire charge of it; but for these many years past the reverse of this state of things has been witnessed. Not only the higher ranks of cultivation, but all the subordinate ranks have been occupied by men of the world, and men too, who, to say the least, have generally exerted an anti-religious influence. Quite at the head of the musical list stand a class of artists who are generally destitute of religious principle, and often grossly immoral, like the Byrons and the Moores of a sister art. Next stand the class of professional performers, who spend most of their life in the theatre. Next in order are the celebrated conductors of concerts and oratorios, and the professional organists, who are all more or less associated with theatricals, copying their style and manner, and too often their licentious practices. And as for the teachers of our psalmody, the greatest proportion of them are either, on the one hand, the pupils of this same school of the theatre, or on the other, the imitators of self-taught men, who are alike destitute of almost every requisite qualification. Church music, which originally emanated from the schools of the prophets, has now, properly speaking, no school of its own.
Our primary singing schools have indeed been, in every point of view, so miserably conducted, that men of distinguished piety have uniformly looked upon them as serious hinderances to the progress of vital religion. And it is nor surprising that they have thus regarded them, when the whole business of management has been conducted chiefly on the principles of amusement and display, and associated more or less with ignorance, lightness and profanity. Publishers, also, have largely participated in the degeneracy. Up to the present time their chief object has been to make books which would sell; and for this purpose catch-pennies have hitherto proved the most valuable. The church has its authorized selections of psalms and hymns; but nothing that answers to them which she can call her own in the musical department. The latter, by common consent, has been abandoned to the mercy of the booksellers. Add, also, to the list of musical grievances, that the clergy are in the habit of sanctioning them by complimentary addresses, as often as they are officially called upon for this purpose, while at other times they treat the whole subject with marked neglect; and it is easy to see that the reform for which we are here pleading is one of no common character. If it is
a solemn fact, that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth. If it is true that our God is a God of order and not of confusion, that he is a God that searcheth the heart, a jealous God, a God that will not be mocked; then surely the enterprise of restoring to the order and dignity and power of spiritual worship, that which has long since degenerated into lip-service, is worthy of the most serious consideration before we presume to pronounce upon it as hopeless or unprofitable.
We have said that an impulse can be given to the public mind. For this purpose, let the periodical press be put in requisition. Let our quarterly reviews and journals, our monthly magazines and miscellanies, our weekly gazettes, religious, literary and political, be made to speak upon the subject. Let lectures also be given in our theological seminaries, our colleges and academies, and before the various ecclesiastical judicatories. Let the subject be brought up at the anniversaries of our benevolent societies, and presented before the churches in our cities and principal towns; and if it should be thought advisable, let some missionary be appointed for this especial purpose. Let it be the object every where, and by every proper means, to show that psalmody has been prostrated, and that christians are bound 10 raise it up from its degradation, instead of suffering it to remain in the churches as an instrument of systematic profaneness. Let such efforts as these be continued with earnestness, and with heartfelt dependence upon God, until the consciences of christians are enlightened and brought to feel upon the subject; let all this be done, and our word for it, the work of reform will have been half accomplished. And who will say that there is any insurmountable obstacle to the performance of all that is here proposed? If the single vice of intemperance, with all its forbidding aspects and disgusting associations, can call forth far more effort than this for years together, till ecclesiastical bodies become temperate societies, and whole towns and counties and states begin to follow the example; if all this can be done, and done with propriety, for the suppression of one single vice in the community, let it not be said that the enterprise of reforming one of the constituted ordinances of the church, which has, by long neglect, and by abuses innumerable, been reduced to empty formality and systematic profaneness,-let it not be said in a land of christian privileges, and in a day
of christian effort, that such an enterprise as this may be lightly esteemed, or accounted too difficult to be undertaken. We are proposing here no useless work; we are pointing out no difficult labour. We ask for no acts of supererogation, but we plead for the performance of an important duty, which ought to be better known, a duty which cannot be neglected when it is understood, without incurring great criminality.
When the christian community shall have been thus convinced that the work of reform ought to be commenced, then let them begin to act consentaneously and with due intelligence, discretion, energy and perseverance.
Here the first object, and, indeed, the only one respecting which the least difficulty is to be apprehended, is that of making a just, practical discrimination between the style of the church and that of the concert-room and oratorio. These styles should, in practice, be kept as distinct from each other as the style of pulpit oratory is distinct from that of a mere political harangue; and the efforts which have recently been making throughout the country to produce an amalgamation of these styles, have probably done more than all other things combined towards the deterioration of true christian psalmody, and towards destroying the little remaining interest which had latterly been felt in this solemn ordinance. So much, indeed, has been done-unwittingly, as we presume —to corrupt the public taste in this respect, that the very power of discrimination seems to have been lost. The exact lines of distinction cannot at once be drawn. The circumstantials of amusement and exhibition have become so interwoven with the forms of worship, wherever music has been much cultivated, either in composition or execution, that it is impossible for the most accurate observer to say at once what precise features are to be ultimately retained and what rejected. Nor is this necessary at the outset. Experience will decide many a question of propriety, which lies beyond the reach of abstract speculation. A few points of discrimination, however, can be fixed upon at the commencement; and others can be afterwards adopted, as occasion requires. The same identical plan may not be suited to all places or circumstances. Prejudices, habits and practices on this subject are various and contradictory. Different obstacles are to be encountered, opposing interests to be harmonized, and, in not a few instances, it may be supposed that direct hos
tility will show itself. For, depend upon it, an important field, which has so long been held by the adversary of souls in quiet possession, will not be relinquished without a struggle. The contest may, for a time, appear doubtful, but the victory will be sure. Christian effort, rightly conducted in this department, will not be lost. The signs of the times, if we mistake not, already invite us to action; and, in a few instances, the work appears to have been actually begun. What, therefore, we have further to offer, will not be regarded merely in the light of an experiment.
1. Every one acknowledges that union is power. Let a number of religious societies, therefore, comprising perhaps a whole presbytery or synod, be organized into a general association for the cultivation of devotional music, and to this association let the individual churches or religious societies become directly auxiliary. Let the primary object be, not the cultivation of music as one of the fine arts for the purpose of tasteful gratification or display, but chiefly that of redeeming the music of the sanctuary from its deadening influence and unhallowed associations. This point of discrimination, as has been just intimated, must be kept distinctly and constantly in view, or all efforts towards a radical reform will be impracticable.
2. In every auxiliary association, the church, as a body, must become interested. This regulation is evidently one of prime importance. If the office of sacred praise is to be rendered highly spiritual, then obviously the cultivation of it should be chiefly under the guidance of those who are spiritually minded. The same principle holds good in every department of practical religion. The Bible will be read and explained to little purpose by those who have not been taught by the Spirit. The preacher of righteousness must himself be righteous, or at least be esteemed so in the judgment of charity, if he would preach to edification. Nor in social prayer should we think to be edified by the mellifluous tones or the appropriate language of one who makes no pretensions to vital religion. And is church music to be esteemed an ordinance of a less spiritual nature ? If it is, then let us no longer embrace in it themes which are pre-eminently spiritual and holy, lest by so doing, our professions of penitence, and faith, and hope, and love, and fixedness of thought and purpose, should prove but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
Devotional music never has flourished, and it never will flourish, without the effective co-operation of christians. And here, as in social prayer, whether they can take an active part in the exercises or not, they must be frequently present, if they would cultivate the habit of social worship. The habitual neglect of any christian privilege will, of course, be visited by leanness of soul. Let the christian neglect his closet, his Bible, his hours of meditation ; let him undervalue the preached word or the ordinance of the Lord's Supper-could he thus maintain the habitual fervour of devotion ? The thing would be impossible. In social worship, too, especially in that department of it which we are now considering, much depends on the cultivation of right associations of mind. These, to a certain extent, are favourable to the production of legitimate emotions. They do by no means constitute the essence of religion, yet they are the necessary concomitants of devotion. Nor are they peculiar to persons who have a musical ear, but, on the contrary, may be cultivated by every one who has a feeling heart. The christian, therefore, whether he has musical susceptibilities or not, should be often present at the meetings for musical improvement, if he would learn to derive any advantage from the ordinance of church music.
3. Meetings for improvement should be conducted strictly in a christian manner. Let anti-christian executants and amateurs occupy their own sphere, and let the gay and the thoughtless, and the lovers of pleasure follow in train, enjoy their amusement, and receive all the reward they are seeking. The church is at present in no condition to interfere with them, even if she had the disposition. She must first begin her own proper work, and set the example of reform. She must begin at once in earnest, and with a christian spirit. The voice of prayer, as well as of praise, must be heard at the meetings, or the lovers of prayer will never be edified. The meetings must, on the whole, be rendered profitable in a spiritual sense to those who are spiritually minded, or the latter will soon forsake them, and feel themselves entirely justified in so doing. Here, as in Sunday schools and Bible classes, there can be no amalgamation of conflicting interests without defeating the whole design of the institution. Let the meetings be begun, continued, and ended, strictly in a christian manner, and then the church will be edified; and those who are of a serious mind, even