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in the wilderness, was inspired to bring forth that book of Psalms, which, to use the beautiful language of Bishop Horne, " like the paradise of Eden, affords us in perfection, though in miniature, every thing that groweth elsewhere, every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; and above all, what was there lost but is here restored, the tree of life in the midst of the garden :—that divine book, in the language of which the prayers and praises of the church have been offered up to the throne of grace from age to age.” * The music to which the ancient Hebrews sung the songs of Sion has been lost, we fear, beyond recovery. Burney, La Trobe, and other learned musicians, maintain that the science of harmony was unknown till the middle ages, and that the music of the Jews, like that of other nations, must have been nothing more than a rude sort of recitative, sung in unison, and only saved from becoming a jumble of noisy sounds by the interjection of certain pauses or accents. To this sweeping conclusion we demur. The laws of artificial harmony, we grant, may have been unknown; but harmony itself existed notwithstanding. If nowhere else, it might be heard in the shady groves and woods, the oratorios of nature. Let other nations speak for themselves, we claim an exception in favour of God's ancient inheritance. That “kingdom of priests" seems to have received their music, as well as their religion, as a gift from Heaven. It will not be easy to convince us that David could have a “harp of ten strings,” without discovering its harmony. Why, if his fingers did not unwittingly find out its chords, the winds of heaven, sweeping over its strings, and converting it into an Eolian harp, would reveal to him the hidden treasures of its music. Nor can we readily believe, that the multitudinous singers and instruments employed in the temple worship, could avoid falling into harmony. We are told that, at the dedication of the temple, "the singers, all of them, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets; and it came to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, that they lift up their voice with the trumpets, and cymbals, and instruments of music.” The effect must have been truly sublime; but from the very nature of the instruments, the “one sound” could hardly have been mere unison, and it may signify a full harmony, as indeed a single note of music is a compound of all the harmonic sounds. But the point seems placed beyond dispute by the fact, that church music formed a subject of instruction in the Jewish schools; for we are informed (1 Chron. xxv. 7) that "the number of them that were instructed in the songs of the Lord, even all that were cunning,” i. e., skilful in the art, “was two hundred fourscore and eight; and they cast lots, ward against ward, the small as the great, the teacher as the scholar.” He that filled Bezaleel “with the spirit of God to devise cunning works,” to adorn the ancient tabernacle, may He not have inspired an Asaph with the gift of music?
Of the singing of psalms under the New Testament, as a part of divine worship, we have undoubted evidence. Our Lord himself countenanced it by his example, and the apostles enjoin it in the most distinct terms. As to the precise character of the music of the primitive church we are equally in the dark; but remembering that the first Christians were Jews, it seems reasonable to suppose that when Paul speaks to the Ephesians of " singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," and when James exhorts those that were “merry to sing psalms,” the sublime productions of the sweet singer of Israel were those proposed as a model, both as to words and harmony. To imagine that they indulged in a vague recitative style, in an arbitrary and extempore application of sound to syllables, (however effective this might be in the hands of a single performer) is wholly inconsistent with the idea of a full chorus. Nothing, however, admits of being more clearly proved than that the singing in the primitive church was strictly congregational. In the ancient temple, this part of divine worship was entrusted mainly to the priests and Levites, a certain class of whom were dedicated to this special service. In the Christian church, when the priestly character pervaded the whole body of the people, who were constituted “a royal priesthood," to show forth the praises of their Redeemer, it became the privilege and the duty of every individual to join in this delightful part of the service. Pliny tells us, in the first century, that “the Christians usually rose before day, and joined together in singing an hymn to Christ as to God." This practice continued down to the fourth century, when Jerome informs us it was so common, " that in Christian villages little else was to be heard but psalms." All the ancient fathers agree in testifying to the high delight which the Christians took in their psalmody, and to the striking effects produced by it when sung in their assemblies. They describe in glowing terms how unbelievers were won over by it, and the common people captivated with it, while the faithful, according to Augustine, “ found it a means of mutual consolation and excitement, with a joint harmony of voices and hearts." Thus did psalmody become at once the symbol of Christian unity, and the source of spiritual refreshment. And thus did it resemble, much
more than the style which supplanted it, the many-voiced choir heard by John in heaven.
" No voice exempt, no voice but well could join
Melodious part, such concord is in heaven." In connection with this it may be stated that the singing of psalms seems to have formed, in primitive times, a regular part of domestic worship. There has been lately discovered an interesting relic of this ancient custom. It is a large sarcophagus, which learned investigators refer to the middle of the second century, on which is represented a Christian family in the act of worship. On one side are three women, standing round a younger female who is playing on a lyre, which represents singing: on the right hand, stand four men, with apparent rolls of music in hand, from which they are singing. This interesting monument indicates both the existence at that early period of a collection of sacred music, and the use of sacred psalmody in the devotions of the family.* “ Those,” says Chrysostom,“ who invite David with his harp, through him call Christ into their dwellings. Make thou thy house a church: for a company of holy souls, who love God, joined together in holy song and prayer, may well be called a church.”+
The fourth century is distinguished for the first steps of improvement in the science of sacred music, under Ambrose of Milan. Then followed Gregory the Great, whose chants, in simple metody or unison, have been lately revived. But as the science of harmony came to be understood, these simple chants soon became so overladen with a complicated counterpoint or figurate harmony, that none but those regularly trained could join in the music. The business of singing God's praise was gradually transferred to a class of persons appointed for that purpose; till at length, by a decree of the Council of Laodicea, early in the fourth century, all persons were prohibited from engaging in it, except the psalmistæ, or “ singing canons.” And such is the practice of the Church of Rome down to this day. The psalms of David are still sung indeed, but sung in an unknown tongue. Music is employed as a mere ecclesiastical machine to operate on men's senses, independent of the Word of God.
Among the first symptoms of life in the Reformed Church was the revival of congregational psalmody. The mouths of the Christian people, formerly struck mute in the temple, were opened, and “their tongues being loosed, they spake and praised God." It was no invention of the reformers, but the renovation of a service familiar to the earlier ages of the church, the native expression of its inner life, and revived wherever * Ancient Christianity Exemplified. By Lyman Coleman. Philadelphia, 1852, p. 68. + Chrysostom, Hom. in Ps. 41 and 42. NO. VIII.
true religion found a home. The Albigenses, during the hotest seasons of persecution, cheered themselves by singing the songs of Zion. The disciples of John Huss, in Bohemia, or the Bohemian brethren, were celebrated for their church music; it was from them that Luther first borrowed those metrical hymns and beautiful tunes which he introduced into the German Church. Luther himself, it is well known, was an enthusiast in music. As early as 1524, we find him writing Spalatinus, that he intended, “ according to the example of the prophets and ancient fathers of the church, to make psalms or spiritual songs for the common people, that the Word of God might continue among them in psalms, if not otherwise. We seek for poets (says he) where we may. I cannot perform the work so neatly as I would, and therefore desire you to try how near you can come to Heman, Asaph, and Jeduthun." “ I am not ashamed to say,” he writes again, " that next to divinity, no art is comparable to music." He had a notion that the devil disliked music, and that it was of great use in the exorcising of evil spirits. With more reason, he held that sacred song was a sovereign specific for spiritual trouble; and would say to his friends when disheartened with the aspect of affairs, “ Come, let us sing the forty-sixth psalm.”
In connection with this, the following story is worth preserving :-On a cold winter evening in the year 1498, when the hoar frost lay white on the streets, and a heavy mist was rolling down from the mountains on the ancient town of Eisenach, in Germany, a clear young voice was heard singing a German version of the forty-sixth psalm, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott“ God is our refuge." It was one of the poor scholars from the neighbouring Augustinian convent, who were accustomed to sing every evening for what the charitable or pious were disposed to give. Repulsed from door to door, the poor starveling at last arrested the notice of a rich burgomaster's young wife, who, inviting him into her house, offered him some refreshment; and in the tones which a mother's heart alone can command, expressed her sympathy with the shivering and povertystricken boy, and asked his history. He tried to speak, but the tears were gathering in his large blue eyes, on hearing the first words of kindness that had greeted his ears since he had parted with his mother; and it was with a choked utterance he told her that his name was Martin ; that his parents lived far away, and were poor miners; and that he had come with his father and mother's blessing to the convent, hoping to be made a good priest some day.
Twenty-three years passed away, and had brought with them their changes. The good burgomaster and his wife, overtaken by calamity in their old age, had in vain sought consolation in a religion which sells its choice wares to the highest bidders. They had heard that the famous reformer, Martin Luther, was to preach in the town of Eisenach, where they had once enjoyed such prosperity, but from which they had long been estranged in their poverty. “They tell me,” said Conrad the husband," he talks wonderfully of free grace, which is to be had without money and without price.” “That would answer us, husband,” replied Ursula his wife. They went to hear the preacher, and without recognising him, found from his lips the consolation of the Gospel. But when the preacher's voice rose in the psalm, old scenes and days came back upon Ursula, and she knew that the miner's son, who had sung long ago in the streets, was the same Martin Luther whom the Pope cursed and the people blessed. It was the same psalm, too, that she had heard through the misty evening. Luther had sung it with his friends before setting out to meet the threatening Diet at Worms; and now, through all the desolation of their latter days, it came to that aged pair, like a voice of faith and comfort, Ein feste burg ist unser Gott—“God is our refuge and our strength."
Calvin does not seem to have possessed a musical ear; and to this cause, rather than to any thing peculiar to his system, may be ascribed the baldness of the Genevan music. Guillaume Franc, an able and no obscure musician, seems to have consulted the taste of the reformer, by giving the plain tunes without any parts. Many of these simple airs, however, borrowed from the ancient chants, are pronounced by good judges to be excellent. We find several of them included in Mr Dibdin's superb collection. And, strange to say, it is to Calvin that we owe the introduction of metrical psalınody into the ordinary service of the Reformed Churches. For some time after the Reformation, the Swiss Churches were accustomed to sing the Lord's prayer and the creed before sermon, concluding with the ten commandments, all put into rude verse. On festival days, they sang the canticles of Pictet.* No sooner, however, did Calvin see the French translation of the psalms by Marot, than he conceived the idea of introducing them into public worship. The history of these psalms is rather curious. Clement Marot, a celebrated lyrical poet in his day, having been induced by Vetablus, Professor of Hebrew in Paris, to devote his muse to sacred subjects, translated about thirty of the psalms into various metres, adapted to popular profane tunes. The effect of this on the volatile spirit of the French was extraordinary Marot's psalms became the rage of the day. They were sung by all ranks in town and country. Each of the royal family had his psalm, which he chanted on
* Ruchat, Hist. de la Reformation, tom. vi. p. 452.
od Reformiers Chut beforeo rude No sodale