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our hearts feel, are pledges for the future, and induce us to believe that that future will be full of blessing to us as a Church and people. Yes, our faith in God is so strengthened that we can rejoice for what He will give us as well as for what He has given ; the language of desire and petition is this day changed on our lips to that of confident assurance.
These walls we to Thy honour raise ;
SHALL CLASS-MEETINGS CONTINUE, AS NOW, A FORMAL CONDITION OF CHURCH
This question may be submitted to the January Quarterly Meetings for their consideration. If so, as it is one of very great gravity, I beg respectfully to offer a few reasons for an answer to it in the affirmative :
1. Class-meetings, like Methodism in general, had a confessedly Providential origin, and it would be at least unsafe to interfere with their character and purpose on any other than an equally Providential plea. No such plea, however, so far as I know, can be offered in favour of such interference. True, their first design was not to denote membership. They grew to this function, and so naturally and unintentionally as to suggest that, whatever purpose of Providence attended their establishment, attended also this particular use of them.
2. They are one of the special “notes” of Methodism, determining its distinctively individual character. Destroy or essentially modify these, and Methodism, as such, would cease to be. Why, then, destroy or essentially modify this one ?
3. As one of the chief “notes” of Methodism, so class-meetings have been one of the chief means of accomplishing its declared mission. This was “to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the land.” At least, they have done much to conserve and further what the doctrine and public ministry of Methodism have done so much to originate and promote. And in their very nature they are fitted to do a great deal more. No means with which I am acquainted are better adapted to preserve believers in their separateness from the world, to pledge them formally and continuously to live a holy life--to give effect, in fact, to the prayer of their great Redeemer and Lord, “I
pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”
4. They furnish, too, the means to that inner fellowship of spiritual life after which most Churches are ever and anon feeling, but which I think is seldom or never realised so completely as in Methodism. Hence, the internal religious unity, compactness, and true conservatism of Methodism, notwithstanding its outward differences on some questions of polity.
5. Class-meetings, in all but name and mode, are undoubtedly in the Bible, even to the weekly contribution, as many passages 'might be quoted to show. What may be called their essence is there demanded as a positive duty. What reason then, as against this fact, , can be alleged for their discontinuance? For to discontinue them, and by express law to excuse from attending them, are much the same thing.
6. So far as my knowledge goes, there is no demand for membership in our Churches on any other condition than that of meeting in class; and if there is any, it is so limited as hardly to justify a change so serious as the one proposed in order to meet it. The change would be purely experimental, and as such would involve great risks. No one with any clearness and definiteness of conception can forecast the probable result of such a change. Has any one even tried ?
7. Besides, what, under the most favourable circumstances, would be the nett advantage of the change? More piety? More zeal ? More brotherly kindness and charity? More compactness of organisation, and efficiency of combined working ? No one, I believe, will say so. What then? A larger recognised membership, it is thought. Possibly. But possibly not. Is it wise, then, for a possible yes, as probably the only advantage, to risk a possible no ?
8. To these reasons may be added the fact, that no other formal condition of Church-membership, of equal simplicity and safety, is proposed in place of class-meetings. A register of names in a classbook, with such oversight of those whose names they are as selected individuals could take of them, would be a poor substitute for the present simple, direct, and confessedly profitable method. To destroy is easy ; to supply the place of what is destroyed with something better or equally good is a task of much difficulty.
Bat it is said the design is not to destroy. The proposal is only to fornish an alternative condition of Church-membership to those who object to meet in class. The answer is not difficult. To make by formal enactment what has hitherto been obligatory personally optional is virtually and in principle to abrogate it. It is, I fear, to do this in fact as well as in principle. Many would probably cease to meet in class, and few would be induced to begin, could they have recognised membership on terms of their own choosing. Such is human nature that, in matters of religion, men require some form of outward obligation and constraint to embrace and use for their benefit what, even, it is their very highest privilege to possess. If class-meetings are of so much practical value, as those who desire the change spoken of themselves profess, then it must be important to supply the strongest motives for attendance thereon. Besides, to introduce a second condition of membership would be, to that extent,
to divide the Body of Christ, and would be virtually of the nature of schism. The Church, in terms of union and association, would not he one, but two. And if two, why not more ?
But it is said many who are now reckoned as members have practically ceased to meet in class, and consistency obliges us either to dismember them or to alter the rule to suit their case. Here, again, the answer is at hand. The rule is not so rigorous as that a wise interpretation of it may not honourably retain those persons, as in fact it does. Moreover, it is not a good principle of legislation to alter a rule because it is found inexpedient or impossible always to enforce it. And yet, again, what guarantee can be given that any new rule that may be devised will be found capable of exact and uniform application to all persons coming under its administration ? Which is the better mode—to relax the working of a rule, where relaxation is reasonably demanded; or to make several rules to meet and effect the same object ?
But we ought not, it is said, to deny membership to any one whom Christ has received. What kind of membership ? With the Church universally? We could not if we would. This is outside our province. With the Methodist New Connexion? Then what right have we to exist at all? The objection goes to the root of all denominationalism whatever. It is valid only on the supposition that specific terms of Church-fellowship ought not to be adopted by any section of the Christian Churcb. But this is to affirm that no such section, as complete in itself, can justify its own separate existence. Logically carried out, the principle would require, even for ourselves, not two conditions of membership only, but as many as would meet the preferences and desires of those in respect to whose individual piety we could entertain no doubt.
On the whole, then, I venture respectfully to suggest to my brother Leaders that it is best for the present at least, to let the class-meeting alone, except to improve its character and make it more largely and efficiently a means of grace. Its whole capability for good has not yet, I think, been developed ; it has not certainly been exhausted. Let us first, with invigorated effort, try our power on the Iustitution itself, to render it a greater blessing to our congregations and societies; and then, if it fail to answer its present and primary design, and God shall show us, as I cannot doubt. He then will, another and better method for our object, we will thankfully adopt His “more excellent way."
AN OLD CLASS-LEADER.
MUSIC. Music is a power. It can rouse the passions, and it can soothe the mind. It can express sentiments, and depict emotions. It can charm the savage breast, and it can fascinate the savage beast. It can please children, and delight adults. It thrives and advances with the civilization of nations, affording luxury to the affluent, and a department of refined art to the studious. Ít richly contributes to
the pleasure of the drawing-room, and sheds a benignant influence on the homes of the poor.
May not music become dangerous ? Most assuredly it may. What power is there in this world that may not become dangerous ? Money is a power, and money often becomes dangerous. Some of the most solemn warnings of the Saviour, of the Apostles, and of Christian ministers in all ages, have been directed against money. Yet the most religious people in the world are obliged to use money, and even consecrate it to the use of the Church. Eloquence is a power ; and few things are more dangerous than misdirected oratory. Yet one of the brightest blessings in our dark world is sanctified eloquence. Even so, music may be misapplied, as too many things in this world, alas ! are : yet music may undoubtedly serve some of the noblest purposes of humanity, and the highest and holiest offices of religion.
Great prominence is given to music in the Bible. The greatest of all historians has recorded the name of Jubal with reverence, as the inventor of harps and organs. The grandest national event of antiquity was the deliverance of Israel from Egypt ; and the climax in this deliverance was the crossing of the Red Sea, when Pharaoh's pursuing army was drowned. This mighty victory was celebrated in the desert with song and dance; for at that time dancing had not become disreputable. The prima donna on this occasion was no less a person than the sister of Moses, who is designated as a “prophetess," combining the highest qualities of religious enthusiasm with advanced art culture. “Sing unto the Lord,” exclaimed this ancient musician, “for He hath triumphed gloriously.”
In the institutions of Moses music was largely employed. The monthly feast of the New Moon, the great commemorative festivals of the nation, and the still greater carnival of Jubilee, were all proclaimed by sound of trumpet. The theory and practice of music formed an essential part of the regular education of a prophet. Hence we find Samuel acting as choir-master at Naioth, and conducting the service of song with such efficiency and effect as to disarm successive homicides.
As the agency of music was employed to celebrate the victory over Pharaoh, it was also employed as a triumphant challenge to the warriors of Canaan, when the Israelites set foot on the promised land. The first achievement, after the crossing of the Jordan, was the taking of Jericho. This was not done by sapping and mining, or by battering rams, or by the regular approaches of siege operations ; it was done by music. Priests trained in Hebrew melody played martial strains on wind instruments, while the tramp of armed men kept time, and while the Ark of God was carried in a solemn religious procession.
The Book of Psalms was the hymn-book of the Jewish nation. The greatest contributor to that wonderful collection of inspired Hebrew songs was David, who excelled all men in ancient times in musical attainments. He must have been upon the harp, what Handel was upon the organ, unrivalled. He could charm away the melancholy of Saul, when that melancholy was most violent and dangerous. Christian congregations may yet be heard singing :
“Oh may my heart in tune be found,
Like David's harp, of solemn sound.” It is much to be regretted that David's music has not been preserved as well as his poetry. The only scrap of it in existence is that which forms the melody of Leoni, and which is sung so appropriately to Oliver's Hymn, “The God of Abraham praise," and which Sir Michael Costa, who is himself a Jew, has used with such good effect in the overture to Eli, an oratorio too little known. Unbroken Jewish tradition ascribes this solemn and powerful melody to David. This applies to the melody only, and not to the harmony of it with which modern ears are familiar. Let us prize this fragment, as the genuine composition of the “Sweet Singer of Israel."
In 1 Chronicles, xxv., it is recorded that David appointed a vast and powerful orchestra, comprising vocal and instrumental arrangements of inmense proportions. This document shows what great prominence was given to music in the ancient Jewish church. It also shows that in the best days of the Hebrew church, singing was not left to a number of half-grown, half-trained, and ill-mannered boys and girls, who came when they liked, and went away the same, with or without reason, as is too often the case with us. It also shows that it was not left for any one, at random, to start any tune, on any pitch, to any hymn, whether appropriate or not. On the contrary, singing was regarded as a serious part of Divine worship, and was entrusted to persons duly qualified and appointed, who combined scholarship and piety with musical training, and who, by their social position and weight of character, were fit for the responsibility.
In the Book of Psalms there are many indications of the great care exercised, both in the style of singing and in the instrumental accompaniment, which indications are of an instructive character, showing the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and profoundly religious feeling which suggested them. The word Selah occurs about seventy times. It signifies to raise or elevate. As a musical direction given to vocalists and instrumentalists it corresponds with the modern word fortissimo, and was employed either to render a cry of anguish more piercing or a shout of triumph more jubilant. The immense resources of modern orchestration, as displayed in crescendo and decrescendo passages, were unknown to the ancients : but from the earliest times a musical ear would require the light and shade produced by loudness and softness of tone.
In twenty-nine Psalms this heading is employed, To the Chief Musician. When used in this simple and absolute form, the phrase denotes that the sacred poem was committed to the care of the choir-master, to be sung in the usual way under his direction, without any deviation from established custom. In six Psalms this phrase occurs, “To the Chief Musician on Neginoth.” Neginoth signifies stringed instruments, and denotes that the flexibility and pathos of instruments of the violin class fitted them to be the only accompaniments in singing those compositions. Here the choirmaster was not allowed to use his discretion, but was required to use strings only, Psalm v. bas this heading, “To the Chief Musician on Nebiloth.” Nehiloth signifies “perforated instruments,"