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“ Haste thee on from grace to glory,"
it comes with a ringing cadence, that reminds us of Bunyan's Pilgrims in the land of Beulah. We hear it in the responsive exhortations of the holy family at Fulneck, and the sounding congratulations that passed between the departing and the departed, as one by one they crossed the flood, and went up to the celestial city-waving a solemn farewell to the survivors, leaving words of cheer, like the perfume of roses, and a trail of light marking the path by which they had ascended.
Our limits will not permit us to notice all the hymns of Montgomery in this explicit manner, much less his longer poems. It is enough to say, that his verse has in it qualities which entitle him to an undisputed rank among the Christian poets. Many of his productions will travel down to the latest time, side by side with those of Watts, and as long as the English language is spoken, and its literature admired, “this also that” he “ hath done, shall be spoken of as a memorial ” of him.
It was meet that we should dwell especially upon the merits of his sacred Muse; because it is as a hymn-writer that he is best known to the world, and, though his other works should be lost, his hymns will be embalmed in the memory of all time, and strik: the key-note of worshipping assemblies as long as the Church on earth waits for its transmutation into the Church in glory.
It remains only to speak a word of the volume before us. It is a condensation of an English work in seven volumes, prepared, as it strikes us, with judgment and good taste, and retaining from the original work all that is necessary to give us a complete view of the subject of the Memoir.
ART. IV.-CONGREGATIONAL MUSIC.
The writer of the History of Christian Worship in the Nineteenth Century will be liable to just criticism, if he shall omit to notice the reform in church music, which has been going on for the past few years. In some churches, indeed, the work proceeds slowly; in others it has not commenced; but, in many of the more influential ones, it is thoroughly and completely established. This movement, as we all know, is towards the practice of congregational singing, either with or without the aid of the choir. Where the choir keeps its ancient place, it is made auxiliary to the voices of common worshippers; where it is dispersed, the precentor takes his place under the pulpit, to select the tune, give the key-note, and lead the congregation, according to the custom of the English and Scotch churches.
The future historian will perhaps find it easier to chronicle, than to account for the movement referred to. He may not be certain whether it is the result of a deeper and more active spiritual life, or a means of attaining a more heart-felt devotion, or simply an expedient to render the service more attractive to pew-holders. It, however, this reform shall be found by the historian to have been attended by a revival of true piety, he will be at no loss in determining its causes and effects. Thus much is certain, there is a very common conviction that the congregation ought to take a more active part in public worship.
It augurs well for the progress of this reform, that it was set on foot after long preparation Music has now for a good while been regarded as an important part of general education. It has been taught to untold multitudes of children in common schools, in Sunday schools, and in academies of music. What is better, the music they have learned to sing is social and congregational. These children know what it is to lift up the voice in multitude, and ever fresh in their memories will abide the power of confederate melodies.
One of the first apostles of popular music was Joseph Mainzer. Born at Treves in 1801, he finished his musical education at Rome. Before leaving the Eternal City, he was invited to a farewell party by Thorwaldsen. All the artists of the day were present, and joined in singing his compositions. On returning home, he published his first elementary work, the Singschule—which was introduced into the schools of Prussia as the standard text-book. We afterwards find him at Paris, teaching gratuitously three thousand workmen. But government was alarmed. The blended voices of three thousand laborers were terrific to oppression; the police threatened, and left it to Mainzer's choice, either to remain in Paris without these classes of poor men, or to seek elsewhere a field for free popular instruction. He did not hesitate to resolve on the latter. He now very naturally turned his thoughts toward Eng. land, where the people were permitted to sing and shout to their hearts' content. He set out for London ; and England and Scotland thenceforward became the fields of his musical labors. He died at Manchester in the year 1851.
Mainzer's gift first discovered itself while he was acting as an engineer of the mines beneath the Saarbuck Mountains. Here he would relieve the tedium of endless night, by composing choruses, and teaching them to the miners, whom he thus led both in labor and in song. The popular chorus seems ever to have been the offspring of toil. The Song of Moses, which the children of Israel sung on the shores of the Red Sea, must have been learned in part while they were yet murmuring under their task-masters in Egypt. The Greeks found their Dithyrambics in the land of the Nile, and who shall say that the walls of the pyramids did not go up amid the wild shouting of the same? And who does not know, that the negroes employed in our southern sea-ports are revolutionizing our naval music. Their voice is heard on every sea.
Their choruses are sung by all our American sailors with a heartiness that may well make the jealous bones of Dibdin rattle in his coffin.
As to the comparative merits of choir music and congregational singing, a good deal has been spoken and written.
But as the question has generally been discussed and decided as one of art merely, the champions of choirs have not unfrequently come out of the contest rejoicing victors. It is not difficult to prove that sacred music cannot be cultivated to the highest pitch of refinement, when it is wholly abandoned to the congregation, and that some fashionable tunes must fall into disuse wherever congregational singing prevails. Nor is it hard to expatiate on the common faults and abuses of such singing. But when the moral design of sacred music is chiefly regarded, the question wears a very different appearance. It is in this latter aspect that we undertake to view the subject. Some professors of music may regard our remarks with a derisive smile, nay, they may call us a Marsyas, and threaten to flay us alive. But we must take leave to say to them beforehand, that we would rather die with Marsyas than live with them, and that we would hazard as little as they often do, were we to assert that Marsyas died a martyr to the cause of popular music, at the hands of the elegant, but proud and exclusive Apollo.
It is a most significant fact, that all the great reformations were marked by the revival of congregational singing. When the statue of Memnon was visited by the first rays of the morning sun, it gave forth, in honor of the light, the most melodious and harmonious sounds. Even 80 when the Sun of Righteousness shines upon the Church, she is vocal with general praise. The truth of God, by restoring man to harmony with himself, with his fellow, and with his God, is ever the prelude of the popular anthem. The Florentine reformer and martyr, Savonarola, awakened a taste for sacred music among the people, and moved converted poets to compose lauds to be chanted by them to well-known airs. The Albigenses practised congregational singing, and when, in 1210, Simon de Montfort, their persecutor, had lighted a pile for their destruction, a hundred and forty of them sang psalms while they were precipitating themselves into the flames. The followers of Huss were equally fond of psalmody. Luther and Zwingle revived their mode of singing in Germany and Switzerland.
It prevailed in Switzerland until the year 1543, when it was superseded by the sacred music of the Huguenots. In France, the metrical psalms of Clement Marot were sung by all, even by the King, Francis I, the Queen, and the nobility, to the tunes of the most favorite songs of the time, in spite of the envious thunders of the Sorbonne. Marot, fleeing from France, was received at Geneva by Calvin, who wrote a preface for his metrical psalms, and so obtained for them universal adoption among his converts. From about the year 1553, to sing Marot’s psalms was regarded in France as a declaration of heretical principles, and “Psalmdist” became another name for Reformer, Huguenot and Calvinist. In 1558, according to Beza, large numbers of Huguenots assembled in the Prez aux Clercs at Paris, and sang psalm's for several days together. The King of Navarre and many Huguenot nobles were of this congregation. The University was hard by, and some of the popish professors and students must have been annoyed by so much heretical singing. Roger Ascham, in a letter from Augsburg, dated the 14th of May, 1551, writes: “It is nothing to hear in a church of that city, three or four thousand people singing at one time.”
What added to the commotion produced by these new sounds, was the contrast they presented to what had hitherto been heard in the churches. We must remember that the words sung had ever been those of an unknown tongue, and conveyed neither sense to the minds, nor inspiration to the hearts of the congregation. The only sacred music known in Europe up to that time, had been the plain chant and descant, performed by the ecclesiastics in choirs, whose perpetual chantings and intonings had no charm for the people. In the reign of Henry VIII, the first step was taken towards rendering church music popular, by translating some part of the church service into English. The Puritans, in the days of Queen Elizabeth, demanded congregational singing, cost what it might. To secure this, they silenced the cathedral service, both vocal and instrumental. They insisted on singing not only the psalms, but all the rest of the Scriptures, including the genealogies, and sounding them