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which are to be met with among the several objects that encompass us, are no less beneficial to men of dark and melancholy tempers. It was for this reason that I will endeavour to recommend a cheerfulness of mind, and to inculcate it, not only from the consideration of ourselves, and of that being on whom we depend, nor from the general survey of that universe in wbich we are placed at present, but from reflections on the particular season in which this paper is written*. The creation is a perpetual feast to the mind of a good man, every thing he sees cheers and delights him; Providence has imprinted so many smiles on nature, that it is impossible for a mind which is not sunk in more gross and sensual delights, to take a survey of them without several secret sensations of pleasure. The psalmist has, in several of his divine poems, celebrated those beautiful and agreeable scenes wbich make the heart glad, and produce in it that vernal de light which I have before taken notice of.
Natural philosophy quickens this taste of the creation, and renders it not only pleasing to the imagination, but to the understanding. It does not rest in the murmur of brooks, and the melody of birds, in the shade of groves and woods, or in the embroidery of fields and meadows, but considers the several ends of Providence which are served by them, and the wonders of Divine Wisdom which appear in them. It heightens the pleasures of the eye, and raises such a rational admiration in the soul as is little interior to devotion.
It is not in the power of every one to offer up this kind of worship to the Great Author of nature, and to indulge these more refined meditations of the heart, which are doubtless highly acceptable in his sight; I shall therefore conclude this short essay, on that pleasure which the mind naturally conceives from the pre
• The Spring
sent season of the year, by the recommending of a practice for which every one has sufficient abilities.
I would have my readers endeavour to moralize this natural pleasure of the soul, and to improve this vernal delight, as Milton calls it, into a Christian vir: tue. When we find ourselves inspired with this pieasing instinct, this secret satisfaction and complacevcy arising fron, the beauties of the creation, let os consider to whom we stand indebted for all these entertainments of sense, and who it is that thns opens its bands and fills the world with good. The Apostle instructs us to take advantage of our present temper of mind, to graft upon it such a religious exercise as is particularly conformable to it; by that precept which advises those who are sad to pray, and those who are merry to sing psalms. The cheerfulness of heart which springs up in us from the survey of nature's works, is an admirable preparation for gratitude. The mind has gone a great way towards praise and thanksgiving, that is filled with such a secret gladness: a grateful reflection on the Supreme Cause who produces it, sanctifies it in the soul, and gives it a proper value. Such an habitual disposition of mind consecrates every field ayd wood, turus an ordinary walk into a morning or evening sacrifice, and will improve those transient gleams of joy which naturally brighten ep and refresh the sonl on such occasions, into an inviolable and perpetual state of bliss and happiness.
IMPROVEMENT OF CHURCH
I COULD heartily wish there were the sanie appli
cation and endeavours to cultivate and improve our church music, as have been lately bestowed on that of the stage. Our composers have one very great incitement to it: they are sure to meet with excellent words, and, at the same time, a wonderful variety of them. There is no passion that is not finely expressed in those parts of the inspired writing, which are proper for divine songs and anthems.
There is a certain coldness and indifference in the phrases of nur European languages, when they are compared with the oriental forms of speech; and it happens very luckily, that the Hebrew idioms run in. to the English tongue with a particular grace and beauty. Our language has received innumerable elegancies and improvements, from the infusion of Hebraisms, wbich are derived to it out of the poetical passages in Holy Writ. They give a force and energy to our expressions, warm and animate our language, and convey our thoughts in more ardent and intense phrases, than any that are to be met with in our own tongue. There is something so pathetic in this kind of diction, that it often sets the mind in a flame, and makes our hearts burn within is. How cold and
264 IMPROVEMENT OF CHURCH MUSIC. dead does a prayer appear, that is composed in the most elegant and polite forms of speech, which are natural to our tongue, when it is not heightened by that solemnity of phrase, which may be drawn from the sacred writings. It has been said by some of the ancients, that if the gods were to talk with men, they would certainly speak iu Plato's style; but I think we may say, with justice, that when mortals converse with their Creator, they cannot do it in so proper a style as in that of the Holy Scriptures.
If any one would judge of the beauties of poetry that are to be met with in the divine writings, and examine how kindly the Hebrew manners of speech mix and iucorporate with the English language; after having perused the book of psalms, let him read a literal translation of Horace or Pindar. He will find in these two last such an absurdity and confusion of style with such a comparative poverty of imagination, as will make him very sensible of what I have been here advancing.
Since we have therefore such a treasury of words, so beautiful in themselves, and so proper for the airs of music, I cannot but wonder that persons of distinction should give so little attention and encouragement to that kind of music, which would have its foundation in reason, and which would improve our virtue in proportion as it raised our delight. The passions that are excited by ordinary compositions, generally flow from such silly and absurd occasions, that a man is ashamed to reflect upon them seriously: but the fear, the love, the sorrow, the indignation that are awakened in the mind by hymns and anthems, make the heart better, and proceed from such causes as are altogether reasonable and praiseworthy. Pleasure and duty go hand in hand, and the greater our satisfaction is, the greater is our religion.
Music among those who were styled the chosen people was a religious art. The songs of Sion, which
we have reason to believe were in high repute among the courts of the Eastern monarchs, were nothing else but psalms and pieces of poetry that adored or celebrated the Supreme Being. The greatest conqueror in this holy nation, after the manner of the old Grecian lyrics, did not only compose the words of his divine odes, but generally set them to music himself: after which, his works, though they were consecrated to the tabernacle, became the national entertainment, as well as the devotion of his people.
The first original of the drama was a religious wor. ship consisting only of a chorus, which was nothing else but au hymn to a deity. As luxury and voluptuousness prevailed over innocevce and religion, this form of worship degenerated into tragedies; in which however the chorus so far remembered its first office, as to brand every thing that was vicious, and recommend every thing that was laudable, to intercede with Heaven for the innocent, and to implore its vengeance on the criminal.
Homer and Hesiod intimate to us how this art should be applied, when they represent the Muses as surrounding Jupiter, and warbling their hymns about his throne. I might show, from innumerable passages in ancient writers, not only that vocal and instrumental music were made use of in their religious worship, but that their most favourite diversions were filled with songs and hymns to their respective deities. Had we frequent entertainments of this nature among us, they would not a little purify and exalt onr passions, give our thoughts a proper turn; and cherish those di. vine impulses in the soul, wbich every one feels that bas not stifled them by sensual and immoderate pleasures.
Music, when thus applied, raises noble hints in the mind of the hearer, and fills it with great conceptions. It strengthens devotion, and advances praise into rapture. It lengthens out every act of worship, and pro