Page images

condescension in religion. It will teach us to be tender of each other's infirmities, and to avoid the occasions of giving offence, which men who have not this care upon their minds rather labor to seek and to improve. Let us but view the difference there will be in one christian grace, when attended with this care, and when not. Let the grace be zeal, which is in itself, without doubt, an excellent gift; but, where men have no regard how far they trust or offend others, how rash and intemperate does it grow in reproaching, not only the vices, but the follies and weaknesses of mankind; how easily does it degenerate into censoriousness, and transport men beyond all bounds of charity and discretion. The consequence is, that it is immediately surrounded with enemies of its own raising, and suffers under the names of fury and uncharitableness. But, on the other side, where it is found in company with prudence, and joined with a care not to offend, it is a gentle and heavenly flame, which warms without scorching. It falls upon its right object, the honor of God and the good of men, and confines itself to such methods only, as may best serve to promote both. It will therefore never run into any indecencies of passion, which are unbecoming the cause it maintains; nor will it provoke and exasperate those whom it labors to reform, as knowing what little benefit men can receive by being ill treated.

Thus will it secure itself from being evil spoken of, and appear with advantage in the eyes of all who behold it.

Men sometimes expose their good to be evil spoken of, out of pure pride and haughtiness of temper. This is the case when men have such a contempt for the world, as not to think it worth their while to guard against the misapprehensions of those about them. They reckon it below their dignity to render any account of what they do, and a mark of guilt to descend so low as to justify their actions. But surely, if we estimate the thing fairly, it is betraying of that which is good to reproach, and laying of stumblingblocks in the way of the blind. The very reason why you despise the world, and disdain to give an account to it of what you do, because the world is weak and captious and below a wise man's notice, is the reason why you ought to endeavour to satisfy it. This rule of the apostle's has its rise from the weakness of men; and the very end of it is to direct us how to walk with respect to those who are weak and unable to judge of things so perfectly as we do. You will see by the verse that follows, that the apostle lays his foundation in the known or supposed weakness of men; 'We, then,' says he, 'that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.' And when he advises us not to let our good be

evil spoken of, what else is it but to advise us to guard against the weakness and misapprehensions of men? He knew surely that good could not be liable to be evil spoken of, but by being misunderstood; and therefore he can mean nothing else, in this charge, but that we should condescend to the weakness of others, and keep our good out of the way of being misunderstood by them.




In the constitution of man, as the Allwise Artist has been pleased to frame it, there are certain tones of the voice, by which the affections of the mind naturally express themselves. The tone of sorrow is mournful and plaintive; the notes of joy exulting and jubilant. St James, therefore, spake with the strictest propriety, when he said, 'Is any afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing.' When the spirits are raised by good news, or any other very pleasing consideration, every one whose actions are unobserved, and therefore unrestrained, will break forth into singing. It is the proper expression of pleasure; it is 'the voice of joy and health in the dwellings of

the righteous.' Who shall contest their right so to declare and make their feelings known? They have been in possession of the privilege, ever since the hour, when, at the creation of the world, 'the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy;' and they will be found to be in possession of it, in the day, when, for the redemption of the world, saints and angels shall sing together, 'Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, to him who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.' During the intermediate period between these two great events, there is upon earth a mixture of evil and good; there is, on that account, a mixture of sorrow and joy; and the service of the church consists of prayer and praise. We have sinned, we are afflicted; we pray, our sins are forgiven; we rejoice and sing.

If we consult the page of history, we find that among all nations, where music has been at all understood and practised, it has been applied to. this use, and employed in their religious festivals. Whatever was the object of adoration, in this manner was adoration paid. And, as it is notorious, that most of the rites to be found among idolaters, were originally derived from the primeval church of God, and transferred to their false divinities, it is a fair supposition, that what was practised by one, had been first practised by the other. Short as the account of things and per

sons is in the Mosaic history of an infant world, we read very early of those who 'handled the harp and organ.' It is impossible to say, at this time, what specific instruments are denoted by the Hebrew words; that they denote musical instruments of some sort, there is no doubt.

No sooner was there a regular church established in Israel, a people selected by the Almighty for that very purpose, than we find music making a part of the ritual. The trumpet was blown in the new moon, on the solemn feast day; such was the statute for Israel, the law of the God of Jacob. The performers, vocal and instrumental, were ranged by the royal prophet, under divine direction, in their several classes, and appointed to wait in succession, through the year. At the dedication of the temple by king Solomon, they were all assembled, and performed together, the whole nation joining in a grand chorus of praise and thanksgiving, while the glory of the Lord, a body of light above the brightness of the sun, descended from heaven, and filled the house of God.

If music in the Jewish church served to enliven devotion, and elevate the affections, why should it not be used to produce the like effect among Christians? Human nature is the same, and the power of music is the same; why should there not be the same application of one to the other,

« PreviousContinue »