« AnteriorContinua »
press our thoughts, but we do not always use words to express our feelings. These we can clearly and forcibly express, by simple sounds. How often do we see this exemplified in the case of little children. Before they are capable of speaking, or even understanding a single word, they can express their joy and sorrow, their love and hatred, and all the variety of their feelings, by merely varying the tones of their voice. This language of the heart grows up with every person, and would be as commonly used as the language of the understanding, were it not restrained by the force of example, or by the sense of propriety. Accordingly we find that music has always been much more in use among those people, who have been left to follow the mere dictates of nature, than among others, who have been governed by the customs and manners of civil society. It is natural to every un. cultivated nation to have a music peculiar to themselves, which no foreigners can completely understand and make their own. The best English musicians have never been able to transplant the peculiar beauties of the Italian and Scotch music into Britain. This is in a great measure owing to the intimate connexion between poetry and music. All nations, in their infancy, have a poetry calculated to interest the feelings of the heart, and their music, which is adapted to their poetry, is the music of the heart, and not of the ear. Their songs are like the song of Moses at the Red Sea, and their music is like the music of the Israelites on that great and joyful occasion. Both their song and their music were wholly designed to express their grateful feelings, or to make melody in their hearts. And this should always be the design of singing, which is the proper language of the affections. Every distinct affection of the heart has a dis
v, 19. . tịnct tone of the voice,* which is perfectly natural to every person in the world. And when any one sings of his own accord, he always sings to express his feelings. This is plainly suggested in the text. The Apostle is not addressing the Ephesians as singers, but 'as men of piety who would wish to express their holy love and gratitude to the Author of all their mercies. He
supposes, that when they felt such devout affections, they would naturally speak to themselves in psalms, or hymns, or spiritual songs, and make melody in their hearts. And the Apostle James seems to convey the same sentiment, when he says, “Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.” Let him express his joy in the very way that nature dictates, which is always the voice of melody. But though it be the primary design of singing, to express our own feelings; yet there is another important end to be answered by it, which is, to excite similar feelings in others. Music has a natural tendency to excite the affections of those who hear it, as well as of those who perform it. And public music always has this design in view. In this respect, singing and speaking are exactly similar. We speak, to excite ideas in others, as well as to communicate our ideas to them. So the singer may have it in view, not only to express the various emotions and affections, which arise in his own mind; but to raise the same emotions and affections in the minds of others. Still, however, the only proper end of singing in general is, to make melody in the heart Let us now consider,
II. The design of sacred music in particular.
General music becomes particular, when it is applied to one particular purpose. The first purpose to which mankind naturally apply music, is to cheer and exhilarate their spirits. They are formed for 80
• Note 1.
cial intercourse, and find a peculiar pleasure in meeting together, from time to time, to relax their minds from the cares and concerns of life, by all the means of self-enjoyment. And festival music is exactly suited to answer this agreeable purpose. Solomon tells us, “a feast is made for laughter." This has always been the principal design of feasting. And as it has been the custom of all nations to have festivals, so it has been their general custom, to employ music to heighten and increase their festivity and joy. It is well known, that not only the Jews, the Babylonians, and the Grecians, but the most rude and uncivilized nations, have been fond of music at their festival entertainments As the laughter of fools, on such occasions, is like the crackling of thorns under a pot; so there is a certain kind of music, which is directly calculated to excite vain mirth, and gratify every natural feeling of the human heart. It was such light and airy music that Solomon approved, patronized, and employed in the days of his folly. And it is such music, that is now the most admired and cultivated by the sons of pleasure, who give themselves up to vain amusements and recreations.
The design of another kind of music is, to inspire men with a spirit of courage, fortitude, and patriotism. This is the music of the army. The Jews and other ancient nations always employed martial music, to rouse the minds of soldiers, and prepare them for the most fierce and bloody combats. And we know, that the natives of this country are extremely fond of their war songs, and always make use of them to keep up a martial spirit in time of peace, and to inflame a martial spirit in time of war. This kind of music is just as lawful and expedient as war itself. And whenever it is proper for any nation to engage in war, it is equalOcca.
ly proper, that they should employ martial music to inspire their armies with a martial spirit.
But the great design of sacred music is, to awakes and express every holy affection of the heart towards God. He is the only object to be glorified and praised by sacred music. So the apostle plainly declares in the text. He calls upon all Christians,“to speak to themselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs: singing and making melody in their heart to the Lord." As it is the sole purpose of sacred music to express the pious feelings of the heart; so there is no gracious affection but what may be properly expressed by sing. ing. There is a proper sound or tone of voice to express holy admiration, holy submission, holy fear, holy love, holy joy, holy gratitude, holy hope, and holy
And whenever Christians are in the sensible exercise of these affections towards God, they feel dis. posed to speak to themselves in psalms, or hymns, or spiritual songs, by actually singing in their own way. President EDWARDS, in giving an account of himself after his conversion, says, “My mind was greatly fixed on divine things: I was almost perpetually in the contemplation of them, spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; and used to spend abundance of my time in walking alone in the woods and solitary places for meditation, soliloquy, prayer, and converse with God: and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations." This is a beautiful illustration of the sacred design of sacred music, which is to express our devout affections towards God, and inake melody in the heart to the Lord.
It now remains,
III. To inquire what is necessary to render sacred music the most useful in religious worship, or how it
should be composed and performed, in order to produce the greatest and best effect upon the human heart. Here the end naturally suggests the proper means to attain it, and leads me to observe,
1. That sacred music should be constructed with great simplicity.
Much art and ingenuity may be displayed in the composition of complex music; but while this art and ingenuity gain the attention and please the understanding and imagination, the heart is left cold and un. affected. Whatever it addressed to one power or faculty of the mind, will not, for that very reason, affect another. That music which is calculated to call the intellectual powers into lively exercise, has no tendency to move the affections. Since music has been reduced to an art, the composers have often discovered more ingenuity than judgment, by constructing it in such a complex manner, as serves to excite curiosity rather than devotion. It is simplicity of composition, which gives music, as well as poetry, the most easy and direct passage to the heart.* This will account for the extraordinary effects of music in ancient times. In those early days, music was composed with that perfect simplicity, which could not fail of raising the affections to the highest pitch of sensibility and tenderness. Modern music is too complex, to make such noble impressions upon the human mind. When we hear this kind of music, we are pleased with the art of the composer, and surprised with the various sounds and sudden transitions of the voice; while at the same time, this admiration either prevents or destroys the more sublime and tender emotions of the heart. But when we hear plain, simple music, it awakens all our sensibilities, instead of exciting our curiosity and ad
* Note %