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emphasis of stentorian strength and triumphant fulness, as they chaunt this climax of the sublime pean—"This God is our GOD for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”
But now, as the peaks and declivities of the mount begin to be choked with the vast assemblage of men, women, and children, all hurrying towards the various open avenues of the city --and as the dust created by the traffic of so many vehicles, asses, mules, camels, and cattle, is exceedingly disagreeable, besides tending to obstruct the view--and, moreover, as we have now contemplated the manner of their procession-let us hasten within one of the gates, through which the stirred citizens are issuing, to welcome their kinsfolk from the country, and to salute other members of their national fellowship who may have come from distant lands to the mountain of the Lord's house.
WHY DO WE SING IN PUBLIC WORSHIP ? The question has frequently been entertained, why should the exercises of devotion be carried on, as they are in great part, though not entirely, in the language of poetry? Why will not prose be equally conducive to the end of such exercises ? And why is singing or chanting calculated to assist the worshipper to an extent far beyond what mere allocution can afford ? These are interesting questions, as it is of importance that the pious christian should perform his devotion in that manner which will best conduce to the ends of religious worship.
The language of poetry and the art of singing are adapted, better than any other mode at present possible, to the exercise in view. It is not denied that direct address to the Deity in the language of prose may be most fittingly used on some topics, and for certain ends; and therefore has it been employed conjointly with hymns and songs by all the sects of christendom. It is especially proper when a great variety of topics are introduced in prayer, and when the particular cases and wants of individuals arising out of any sudden emergency, are the subjects of petition. When we bear in mind how varied are the wants and conditions of any great body of men, meeting together for united worship; when we remember, too, how wide is the circle of objects which engage the sympathies and call forth the prayers of sincere christians—the temporal wants of our fellow-christians and our fellow-men—the spiritual wants of all the children of God and the children of darkness—the success of preaching and of missionary operations, &c. &c. ; when we recollect also that these objects are ever varying, either in themselves, or in the manner in which they affect the pious mind; we shall see that no other language than that of prose would be adequate to the enumeration of so wide an array of topics. And this circumstance by the way, seems to be a ground of objection against a standing Liturgy, unless accompanied by extempore prayer as occasion may require. For a form of prayer, which is rigidly adhered to, necessarily runs into one of two extremes—by failing in the particular notice of subjects called forth by the various emergencies of human life—or, if not failing in this respect, by comprehending too much and comprising too many particulars for a regular and ordinary service. The language of prose, then, is the only language which can be rightly employed for such ends of worship as have been described, because it affords the only mode of address by which the ever-shifting position of human affairs can be properly and particularly noticed at the throne of grace. There are evil tendencies, however, in this mode of address which frequently exhibit themselves, and which ever require guarding against. The language of prose is the language of ordinary intercourse between man and man—it is the vehicle by which the most trifling and common-place, as well as the most solemn and sublime, topics are conveyed to the minds of men : but as the former topics (i. e. the trifling and common-place) are more ordinary than the latter, the ideas we associate with the use of prose are not naturally of that serious and extraordinary character which best comport with the duties of religious worship. Hence the absence of serious impression by which the countenances of many apparent worshippers may be marked during this mode of address, and hence the necessity which has been felt by most of those who officiate, of adding by the style and intonation of their voice, as much solemnity as possible to the service in which they are engaged. When we listen to individuals whose organs of speech or whose nicety of ear are not adapted to give them this power of solemnizing the
language of prose, our very devotion is affected and materially impaired by the apparent ordinariness of the address—even though it may be far distant from irreverence. There is another evil tendency in the use of prose for devotional purposes, which may be frequently noticed: viz.—the tendency to repetition and tautology. This tendency is apparent in extemporaneous address, and may be attributable in many instances to the poverty of thought or expression in the officiating party: but not always so. The fault is mainly inherent in the mode of address : viz., the language of prose. This repetition will be found, on observation, to be most frequent in confession and adoration--and arises from very simple and natural causes.
In adoration, the objects we have in view are so infinitely exalted, that the pious mind always feels the difficulty of rising up to the theme—as well as of clothing the conceptions actually entertained in adequate language. The only mode of effecting the object in view, is by repeating the same sentiment—that the mind may have sufficient time for gathering in all the associations it suggests.
In confession, not only is an acknowledgment of sin necessary, but this acknowledgment is accompanied by various and mingled feelings of penitence, contrition, humiliation, &c., which must (from the constitution of the pious mind) be entertained during the confession—and which require longer time for their being properly felt, than the language of confession does for utterance; so that repetition is almost invariably the means of supplying the defect. In a standing liturgy the repetition may be avoided: but the evil is rather increased than diminished; since the feelings of the penitent heart do not keep pace with the rapidity (rapidity in reference to the multitude of concomitant ideas which have to pass through the mind) with which the language of adoration or confession is uttered. In fact, there are only two ways in which this defect of prose language, as too rapid for the process of devotional thought and feeling, may be remedied: the one is by repetition—the other by pauses at the end of each sentence. Of the two, perhaps repetition is preferable, because it keeps the mind to the point: while a cessation of sound reminds us too much, by contrast with a previous utterance of sound, that we are listening to words, instead of thinking, and feeling, and worshipping.
We may thus estimate the value of the language of poetry, and of the operation of singing, in aiding the mind of the worshipper. These remarks suggest some ideas on these points, on which it may be right to dwell. We have admitted that prose may be properly employed in certain parts of devotional service, or rather affirmed that prose alone is adapted to certain parts, viz., those in which particular cases are the subject of petition. The language of poetry, here, accompanied by singing, or chanting, would fail in the accomplishment of the end in view: in the first of the above-mentioned cases, by extending the service to an untold length; in the second, by the impossibility of extemporizing in verse. This circumstance suggests the peculiar range of devotional topics to which the language of poetry may be applied; viz., those in which the worshipper requires time for consideration and meditation, and beyond what the words uttered would seem at first to call for. As it is not the utterance of words which constitutes worship, but the eliciting of feeling and devout sentiment in the heart—so that mode of address by which most scope is afforded for the development of this feeling, is preferable, as being most adapted to the end in view.
Some of the advantages resulting from the application of poetry and singing to the exercises of worship, may be indicated thus :-Metre, especially when accompanied by singing, gives a tone of importance to the service itself, beyond what prose can effect. Prose is the language of unpremeditation-metre is the language of art, bespeaking, by its very nature, care and study in its composition. Poetry perpetuates the highest conceptions of a pious and imaginative mind. The poet, accepted as such, seizes hold of those conceptions, and puts them in the form which will best endure. Singing affords time to the worshipper for entering more fully than otherwise into the sentiments expressed, without pause, and without repetition.
Many other advantages will suggest themselves to the reflecting reader.
THE CHILD OF FAITH.
“The record that God gave of his Son; and this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son." This is the highest object of faith. Upon this "record” must the sinner fix his eye, and gaze. Smaller objects may justly engage our earnest faith, but this alone will save. Let us turn, my friend, and trace the operations of faith in various degrees, as marked by several cases in the New Testament.
Notice, first, the nobleman at Capernaum. The report or testimony of the Saviour's power had reached his country. He believed it and hastened to Galilee. He saw the great healer. He said within himself, he can restore my son; he can do the wonderful deed, if he will come down; if he will come down before my child die. Sir," said he with great earnestness, come down."
The next case is of a higher character. It is that of the centurion. He believed in the power of Christ, and likewise in his Omnipresence. In his view, it was not needful that Christ should go down to his house; no, but said he,"speak the word, and my servant shall be healed.”
Look now to that exercise of simple faith in Mary. It embraced the testimony of the Saviour's dominion over the next world as well as this. “Lord if thou hadst been my brother had not died; but even now whatsoever thou askest of God, God will give it thee.”
In all these cases faith triumphed. And think you that a case of far higher consequence shall fail ? Imagine the child of faith. He is praying. His cry is entering the ear of mercy. It is this: “Lord, I am ready to perish; but thou hast made bare thine arm, and declared thyself mighty to save. I believe it, thou canst save me if thou wilt come down; if thou wilt come down before my body is in the grave and my soul is in eternity. Oh, speak the word; say to me as thou hast said to another and another such as I am, “I will be thou clean, and the leprosy will leave me.”
Perhaps you are not satisfied with these exemplifications of faith, because they refer only to the body. Many could be mentioned respecting the immortal part of man. The case of the