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David, the particular species and particular number of musical instruments to be employed in the temple-service, were determined by divinc authority. But if we once introduce musical instruments into divine service, we shall never know when, nor where to stop. This difficulty has already occurred in some cases, and will continue and increase, as long as the unscriptural practice finds advocates, among those who direct and lead in church music. And since there is no precept of Christ, no example of the apostles, no dictate of reason, and no sentiment of piety, which requires the introduction of musical instruments into divine worship under the gospel, it is devoutly to be wished, that they might be entirely and universally excluded from the house of God. It
appears, in the second pluce, from what has been said, that it is much more difficult to compose good music, than many imagine. None can excel in this profound science, without a thorough knowledge of the
proper design of music, of the various modulations of the human voice, and of the various emotions and affections of the human heart, As very few have possessed the knowledge of these things, so very few have succeeded* in writing music. More good composers, however, have appeared in the course of the last century, than in any former age. “In the year 1732, GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL introduced the sacred musical drama into Great Britain. This wonderful genius had come from Germany to England about twenty years before, and by his zeal, and the incomparable excellence of his compositions, formed a grand era in music.” In consequence of this, music in general, and especially sacred music, has been better understood, better composed, and better per
formed in Britain, of late years, than it ever was before. Some of the best British and other European publications have reached America, and had a happy influence upon those, who have been capable of discerning and imitating the beauties of their no less simple, than solemn and sublime music. It is to be regretted, that so many among us undertake to write church music, who cannot distinguish it from any other kind, and who compose so many light and airy tunes, which are much better calculated for the theatre, than for the house of God. If such novices would consult European authors, and become acquainted with their peculiar excellencies, they would cease to admire and publish their own compositions. This censure, however, is not meant to be universal, for it is readily acknowledged, that there are some musicians of great merit in this and the other States, who are using very laudable exertions, to reform the gross corruptions, which have long been creeping into church music. And if they will only persevere in their united efforts, there is ground to hope, that they will happily succeed in forming the taste, and assisting the devotion of all our religious societies.
Finally, the whole tenor of this discourse applies to the present occasion, and urgesthe duty of discouraging bad, and of promoting good music. All music whether good or bad, never fails to affect the heart, and all the finer feelings of human nature. There is now a great attention paid to the theory and practice of music, and if this attention could be properly directed and encouraged, it would have a happy influence upon the political, as well as moral and religious interests of our rising nation. It has been found by the experience of ages, that the prevailing n usic in any country, will either promote the peace and harmony, the virtue and pirty of its inhabitants, or rob them of these fruitful sources of private and public happiness. Bad music has already done much injury to the cause of virtue and religion among us, by banishing solemnity from our religious assemblies, and introducing such levity, as directly tends to destroy devotion, and defeat the design of religious instruction. It is in the power of ilicomposed, ill-adapted, and ill-performed inusic, at the close of divine service, to eradicate from the minds of the people, the best impressions of the most instructive and most solemn discourses. Such serious and growing evils* call for some effectual remedy, and the promotion of good music is the only effectual remedy that can be applied. This is an object of sufficient magnitude to merit the attention of the most respectable characters, whose countenance and exertions are necessary to bring about a reformation in music. And here they may find a noble example in the conduct of the British nation. “The year 1784 was rendered a memorable era in the annals of music, by the splendid and magnificent manner in which the birth and genius of Handel were celebrated in Westminster Abbey, under the immediate auspices of the King and Queen of Great Britain, and the other most dignified personages of the kingdom.” It well becomes men of science, property, and influence, to patronize the best composers and the best performers of music, and to assist them by all proper means in their power, to bring their extensively useful art to a greater state of perfection. But there is a higher obligation lying upon ministers, churches, and religious societies, to exclude all light, vain, festival music from the pubfic worship of God, and to introduce a more sacred psalmody, which is adapted to enkindle and diffuse 3 spirit of true devotion through a whole religious assembly. And to come nearer home, I would seriously and earnestly exhort the people in this place to unite their influence and exertions in favor of the best kind of sacred music. This is a duty, which the glory of God, the interest of religion, and your own spiritual benefit, lay you under indispensable obligations to perform. And should you faithfully dis charge this duty, there is a fair prospect, that the happy effects of it will continue and increase from generation to generation. But I would be more particular still, and entreat those individuals, whom God has distinguished with a musical ear and a musical voice, to improve the precious opportunity, which they now enjoy, of cultivating these talents for the service of their Maker. He has been pleased to favor you with a very able instructor;" and it now lies with you, whether you will bury your peculiar talents, and lose your past labor, or employ your future leisure hours, in perfecting your knowledge of sacred music, which is a most noble and useful attainment. In this connexion, I wish to impress upon your minds an idea, which ought never to be eradicated. “Be not weary in well doing.” It has been found by unhappy experience, that after young people have learned and practised sacred music awhile, they have become less and less attentive to it, until they have totally neglected it. I beseech you to retain the places which you now fill from Sabbath to Sabbath, and let no trivial cause deter you from bearing a part in the most delightful exercise of divine worship. Only remember and love your Creator, and sacred music will unite your hearts as well as your voices, and make you steadfast, unmove.
able, always abounding in the bigh praises of God. Piety, poetry, and music are intimately and happily united. And whenever you feel what you ought always to feel, the spirit of the gospel, it will afford you a peculiar pleasure, “to speak to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” You will then go on your way rejoicing, and be continually preparing to join the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven, in singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb forever and ever. AMEN.