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ON THE TITLE OF THE FIFTY-FIRST PSALM.
For the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine. THE titles prefixed to many of the Psalms, as explanatory or descriptive of their contents, though of great antiquity, are not, I apprehend, considered of equal authority, and therefore may admit of inquiry.
That which is prefixed to the 51st Psalm, I have long suspected, from internal evidence, not to belong to it. The sin lamented was not an external transgression. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight:" this seems to imply, not in the sight of man, for otherwise there was no occasion to mark the all-seeing eye of GOD. The following verses, which relate to the state of moral defect and alienation from GoD introduced by the fall of ADAM, are certainly not meant as a vindication, or even as an excuse, but to express the conviction that no correctness of outward conduct, if it could be pleaded, would reach his case, or constitute the salvation which he sought; and further, that the sacrifices and offerings of the Levitical Law, though they might supply external defects, omissions of ceremonial obedience, could not be substituted for internal holiness.
Upon the whole, I am of opinion that the sin committed by DAVID in numbering the people, (2 Šam. xxiv.) is here meant. This was a heart-sin. The outward act was lawful. The people were twice numbered by MOSES; (see Num. ii. 16, and xxvi. 62;) and it was doubtless something more than the bare order, which gave occasion to JOAB, whose character was not that of scrupulosity, to remonstrate against the King's command. And though I allow that political motives were most likely to produce his dissatisfaction, yet it ag
gravated the sin of DAVID, that he did not improve the check thus given him, for further examination into the principle of the measure.
The concluding prayer for the prosperity of Jerusalem appears to be in the faith of the future building of a temple; the scite of which had been made known to DAVID, when his sacrifices in the threshing-floor of ORNAN were accepted. (See 1 Chron. xxi. 28, and xxii. 1, and compare 2 Chron. iii. 1.) "Do good unto Zion, build Thou the walls of Jerusalem:" (be her protection.) "Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offerings: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar."
The objection which may be raised to this transfer of the subject of the 51st Psalm, grounded on the prayer, in verse 14, for deliverance from "blood-guiltiness," which has hitherto been thought to have reference to the death of URIAH, may well be answered from 1 Chron. xxi. 14: “So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel : and there fell seventy thousand men,” (See the following verses.)
I should not dwell on this alteration of the title, if I did not think the Psalm itself would minister more edification when better understood. It stands in the front of the Penitential Psalms, and is very frequently referred to. No one can doubt but an attention to heart sins is more useful than the detail of external transgressions; these ought not to be familiarized; whereas the latent evil of corrupt motives, and the secret subtleties of self-love, cannot be too narrowly watched, or too carefully detected and exposed.
THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY:
Exhibited in M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND'S Description of the Present State of PALESTINE.
To the Editor of the Methodist Magazine. IN a Volume of the last Series of your Miscellany, were inserted some Observations on the Divine Origin of the Scriptures and the Truth of Christianity;" (See the Number for
December, 1820, p. 879;) where I briefly stated the argument deducible from the fulfilment of Prophecy, and adduced a remarkable example of that kind, supplied by the accomplishment of our LORD's denuncia
tion against the Jews, in the desolation of their city and temple; and that too in spite of an avowed attempt to frustrate the prophecy.
As a farther confirmation of the same argument, I beg leave to present your readers with another instance of the completion of prophecy. It is the infliction of that part of the terrible judgments with which Moses, by the command of GOD, threatened the Jews in case of their apostasy, which related to the country in which they dwelt.
On that land, so much celebrated by ancient writers for its exuberant fertility, and which the Scriptures describe as "flowing with milk and honey," and as being "like the garden of Eden," did MOSES declare that the following dreadful curses should alight, if its inhabitants departed from the ordinances of their GOD. "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed." "So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath; even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD GOD of their fathers," &c. Deut. xxviii, 23, 24, and xxix. 22-25.
In how literal a manner these judgments have been executed upon this once fruitful country, the vivid description of M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND shall inform your Readers. (See his "Travels in Greece, Palestine," &c.) "We pursued our course, says that lively writer, "through a desert, where wild fig-trees, thinly scattered,
waved their embrowned leaves in the southern breeze. The ground, which had hitherto exhibited some verdure, now became bare; the sides of the mountains expanding themselves, assumed at once an appearance of greater grandeur and sterility. Presently all vegetation ceased: even the very mosses disappeared. The confused amphitheatre of the mountains was tinged with a red and vivid colour. In this dreary region we kept ascending for an hour, to gain an elevated hill which we saw before us; after which we proceeded for another hour across a naked plain, bestrewed with loose stones. All at once, at the extremity of this plain, I perceived a line of Gothic walls, flanked with square towers, and the tops of a few buildings peeping above them. At the foot of this wall appeared a camp of Turkish horse, with all the accompaniments of oriental pomp. El Cods! "The Holy City!" exclaimed the guide, and away he went at full gallop.-I paused, with my eyes fixed on Jerusalem, measuring the height of its walls, reviewing at once all the recollections of history, from ABRAHAM, to GODFREY of Bouillon, reflecting on the total change accomplished in the world by the mission of the SON OF MAN, and in vain seeking that Temple, not one stone of which is left upon another. Were I to live a thousand years, never should I forget that desert, which yet seems to be pervaded by the greatness of JEHOVAH, and the terrors of death."
"As we advanced," (he was now journeying towards the Dead Sea,) the aspect of the mountains still continued the same, that is, white, dusty, and without shade, without trees, without herbage, without moss. We at length arrived at the last range of hills that form the western border of the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. The sun was near setting; we alighted, to give a little rest to our horses, and I contemplated at leisure the lake, the valley, and the river. The eastern chain of mountains, called the Mountains of Arabia, are the highest. The western range belongs to the mountains of Judea. The valley, bounded by these, exhibits a soil resembling the bottom of a sen that has long retired from its bed, a
beach covered with salt, dry mud, and moving sands, furrowed, as it were, by the waves. Here and there stunted shrubs with difficulty vege tate upon this inanimate tract; their leaves are covered with salt, which has nourished them, and their bark has a smoky smell and taste. Through the middle of this valley flows a discoloured river, which reluctantly creeps towards the pestilential lake by which it is engulfed.
"Such is the scene fåmous for the benedictions and curses of heaven. This river is the Jordan; this lake is the Dead Sea.
"When you travel in Judea, the heart is at first filled with profound disgust; but when, passing from solitude to solitude, boundless space opens before you, this disgust wears off by degrees, and you feel a secret awe, which so far from depressing the soul, imparts life, and elevates
the genius. Extraordinary appearances every where proclaim a land teeming with miracles; the burning sun, the towering eagle, the barren fig-tree, all the poetry, all the pictures of Scripture, are here. Every name commemorates a mystery; every grot proclaims the future; every hill re-echoes the accents of a prophet. Goo himself has spoken in these regions: dried-up rivers, riven rocks, attest the prodigy: the desert still appears mute with terror, and you would imagine that it had never presumed to interrupt the silence, since it heard the AWFUL VOICE OF THE ETERNAL."
It is proper to observe, that there are a few tracts in Palestine, (and as it seems, but few,) which are exceptions to the above general description of aridity and barrenness. Tenterden, Nov. 7, 1821.
THE WESLEYAN-METHODIST. (No. I.)
UNDER this Title, we propose to insert, occasionally, a SERIES OF PAPERS on subjects connected with the History, Doctrines, and Economy of the Wesleyan-Methodists. We are of opinion, that various useful topics may, in this form, be advantageously brought before the notice of our Methodist Readers; and that such a Series may be rendered, in process of time, a rich depository of sound principles, of important facts, and of valuable practical suggestions, in reference to the Body of Christians to whom it will be particularly addressed. Communications for this Series are respectfully requested from our intelligent Correspondents. We are happy to commence it with an able Paper, by the REV. RICHARD WATSON, on a subject universally interesting. It constitutes the Preface to a Work just published at the Methodist Book-Room, and entitled, "Sacred Harmony: a Set of Tunes, collected by the late REV. JOHN WESLEY, M.A., for the use of the Congregations in his Connexion: a new Edition, carefully revised and corrected by his Nephew, CHARLES
WESLEY, Esq., Organist to His MAJESTY." We insert it without abridgment; and strongly recommend it to the attention of all who. are solicitous for the devotional character and moral efficiency of our Public Worship.
ON CONGREGATIONAL SINGING.
THE present Collection of Tunes, designed originally for the Methodist Congregations, having become scarce, it was thought that an acceptable service would be rendered to the lovers of that simple melody which characterized the singing of the primitive Methodists by republishing them; and thus, by a new Edition, recalling the attention of our congregatious to the music which animated the devotion of their forefathers, and which was sanctioned by the judgment of our venerable Founder.
It is not professed that all the airs in this Collection are equally good, or that none of them are liable to exception; nor is it to be understood, that their exclusive use is recommended. Many of them, however, have
fallen into disuse, which, for their intrinsic excellence, ought never to have been displaced as standard congregational tunes; and the whole forms a body of sacred music which has no ordinary claim, both from its general style, and the name of its Compiler, to be regarded as the guide of our taste and practice in this department of our devotional services, in public and in our families.
Certain it is, that since the airs in the "Sacred Harmony" have been suffered to fall into neglect or oblivion, the character of our congregational singing has not generally improved. That many tunes, composed by men celebrated in this species of musical composition, and which have beld an eminent place in church music almost since the time of the Reformation, have been in frequent use, and that some compositions of much more modern date, formed on the style of the solemn and noble psalmody of ancient times, have been employed in aid of our devotions, we gladly acknowledge; and in those congregations where this taste has most prevailed, the singing has been most devotional and edifying; but it must be lamented, that the rage for new tunes which was for many years indulged, and the eagerness with which every collection was bought up and introduced, deluged the Connexion with base, dissonant, unscientific, and tasteless compositions, utterly destructive of that rich and solemn melody, which best becomes religious services, and most powerfully excites those emotions which act subserviently to edification, by giving force to the words sung, and fixing the attention more directly upon them.
One great reason of this evil has been the inattention of Ministers themselves to this part of the service of the sanctuary; for what primitive bishops and general councils did not think it unimportant to regulate or improve, has been too often left among us to the leaders of tunes, and to choirs of singers. The consequence has been, that every tune which recommended itself to a false, a vulgar, or a light taste, or which was adopted for no other reason than its novelty, has been employed to
spoil the effect of the finest sacred poetry, not inspired, ever put into the lips of religious worshippers; and not unfrequently to silence whole congregations, for the sake of the exhibition of the orchestra.
This evil, like many others, has served to work its own cure by the re-action of its very excess. A better taste is growing up, and in this tendency to recur to the principles on which the "Sacred Harmony" was compiled, its republication may be considered as timely. But much remains to be done to impress upon those who have the conducting of this branch of worship, that what is new is not always an improvement, and that the true principles and practice of this great art were known and exercised centuries before they were born.
In those ages when poetry and music jointly produced their most powerful effects, the artificial refinements of modern times were not resorted to. Harmony or counterpoint was unknown, and the effect was produced by the sweetness and simplicity, or the nobleness and spirit, of the air, giving emphasis to the conceptions of the poet, by corresponding with them. There is an immutable truth in nature; and it is in the melody, or air, that we are still to look for the true power of music to excite emotion, and to give effect to poetry. This is more especially the case in the "singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; where the music in all cases ought to be adapted to the sentiment, and resorted to as an auxiliary to awaken attention, and to produce an emotion, not to be sought for its own sake, however pleasurable, nor to be rested in as an end; for, in itself, the excitement is purely natural, and might be as forcibly produced at an opera, or by the use of a vain song. If it be sanctified at all, it must be by the sentiments which it more deeply impresses, and the praise to which it gives an intenser ardour. Like the fire of the altar, it differs not from the common element, until it receives the incense, and at once perfumes itself, and spreads the odour through the temple.
Hence the singing of the Jews
must, from the very structure of their poetry, have been a kind of recitative, or, at most, a chant, varied occasionally with alternations and responses. The singing in the ancient Greek and Roman temples appears also to have been of the same simple character; and according to the learned MARTINI, the music of the first five or six ages of the primitive church consisted chiefly in a plain, simple chant of unisons and octaves, of which many fragments remain in the canto fermo of the Romish Missals. The character of the primitive singing is strongly marked by the Gregorian Chant, which was an improvement upon the Ambrosian Chant established at Milan about the year 386, and may be considered as a primitive air; for EUSEBIUS tells us, that ST. AMBROSE had his melodies from the church at Antioch, where he long resided. The Gregorian Chant is a plain and dignified melody, formed on these primitive models, and was designed to banish a lighter style which had crept into the church; for ecclesiastical writers seem unanimous in allowing, that GREGORY, whose pontificate commenced in A. D. 590, collected the musical fragments of such ancient psalms and hymns as the first fathers of the church had approved and recommended to the first Christians; that he selected, methodized, and arranged them; and banished from the church the canto figurato, as too light. It is added, that his own chant was called canto fermo, from its gravity and simplicity.
In after ages an artificial and complex mode of singing obtained in the Western Church; for the universal departure from simplicity in other parts of worship could not but affect church music. This was among the offences given to the spirit of piety at the Reformation; and the leading Reformers exerted themselves to remove it. LUTHER composed services, more in the style of the first ages of the church; CALVIN, in his establishment of the Genevan Church, excluded the elaborate music of the Papists, and adopted that plain metrical psalmody, which is now in general use among the reformed
churches abroad, and the parochial churches of our own country. Soon after the Reformation commenced in England, eomplaints were made by many of the dignified clergy, and others, of the intricacy and difficulty of the church music of those times; and several reforms were the consequence. The thirty-two Commissioners, to whom EDWARD VI. committed the compilation of a body of ecclesiastical laws, condemned figurative and operose music, or that kind of singing which abounds with fugues, responsive passages, and a commixture of various and intricate proportions.
In the best ages of the Church, and by the judgment of the most eminent and pious of its Ministers, simplicity has therefore been thought the most appropriate character of sacred music; and every thing intricate and light, injurious to the genuine spirit of devotion. In this sentiment MR. WESLEY cordially concurred, and strenuously opposed light and intricate performances. In his Journal he remarks," April 8, 1781, I came just in time to Warrington to put a stop to a bad custom which was creeping in here. A few men, who had fine voices, sang a psalm which no one knew, in a tune fit for an opera, wherein three, four, or five persons sung different words at the same time! What an insult upon common sense! What a burlesque upon public worship! No custom can excuse such a mixture of profaneness and absurdity." Many similar observations on abuses in singing may be found in his works: and it is a circumstance of greater importance than will appear to superficial minds, that as we have, through the special goodness of GoD to us, a collection of the best hymns, we have also been frequently and seriously admonished to sing them so as to render them helpful to our piety, by "making melody in our hearts to the Lord."
By the rules which are supplied by the practice of the Church of CHRIST when most influenced by the life and power of religion, and the opinions of her most eminent Ministers on the right performance of this sacred service, all new tunes ought