« EelmineJätka »
hardly he can recover the smallest measure of his own, or even convince us of his right to it: calling to mind that inpressive appeal, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. Nor is this all. The misappropriation of God's gifts seems,
in some cases, to have changed their character, and made şin to have become so inherent in them, that, like the leprous house of the typical dispensation, there is nothing to be done but to cast them from us. Yet must we not be in too much haste to do this, lest we despise, as some have done, the good things of God, and make light of his bounty. Before we determine to pull down the leprosy-stricken building, we must try if it cannot be recovered: we must try what grace can do, what prayer can do, what a sound judgment and an honest heart can do, to amend its uses, and keep possession harmless. Never must we forget that all was good once. 6 God saw that they were very good.” It is a wonderful statement, when we look round upon the world as it now is, and consider, that not only were all God's works good in themselves, but that all their properties were good ; capable, indeed, of a bad use, as all created essence is, but intended for a good one, and made meet for it.
The same hand that gave to the fresh grape its refreshing flavour, gave to it also those spirituous juices which have led thousands to destruction. The same wisdom that gave to music its power to delight the sense, gave it also that fitness to affect the heart, which has been made use of to corrupt it. Man has no more power to impart a new property to things created, than to create a new thing. Every property of matter, in all its multiplied oombinations
and developements, must be of God, and therefore good: the evil only is in the use and application, which is man's.
Does it necessarily follow that a legitimate exercise may be found for every faculty in man, and every property in nature, in the present state of things? I do not think it does : because man him. self is altered, and many things have become dangerous to sinful humanity, which, in a state of innocence, would have been harmless; as in a time of sickness, many aliments, wholesome in themselves, are found injurious, and even fatal; and I think it is so intimated by the figure of the leprous house, where the mere stones might become so tainted with that type of sin, as not always to be recoverable by the purifying process. But these things will be exceptions, oftener individually than generally applicable; as, in the physical constitution, what would be death to one is nutritious food to another, or at another time, according to the state of health. The general rule will still be, that whatever God has given is good, and capable of legitimate uses, when the blood of Christ has taken the curse out of it, and the Holy Spirit guides us in the using.
For some days past, all the world's talk in London has been Music-what would be heard, or has been heard, in the great National Festival; whether it should be where it was to be, and, above all, whether pious people might be there. It is not upon all or any of these questions I propose to write, although they are the occasion of my writing. It is easy to say that a thing is wrong, and happily easy, if we think so, to abstain from it: which makes our practical difficulties, in such cases, much less than at first appears. We may readily form our conduct, where it is very difficult to form our judgment; becaase we are enjoined to act upon our doubts, without reference to the justness of them-he that doubteth is condemned if he partake. But when we have judged any action to be wrong, we have not made it so, excepting to ourselves; and least of all have we a right to proceed to the execution of our own sentence, by condemning every one who may have decided otherwise.
If we desire to influence the conduct and assist the judgment of others, which is the object of all who publish their opinions, it appears to me better to take a general rather than a particular view of the subject-to discuss the principle, rather than some single manifestation of it. We may make too much of a single deviation-of a wrong course we cannot make too much. We may exaggerate the importance of an action, but not so of an habitual rule of action; beside that in applying our observations to an occasion, we may render them inapplicable to other occasions: in every recurrence of such questions there is a change of circumstances : perhaps to every person a difference of circumstance: whence a single conclusion would be no better than the medicine of the empiric, prepared for all constitutions, and for all complaints. It is by a settled principle of action that every separate act must be tried; and in fact, it is that which is important. I would not have used my pen to persuade or dissuade any one about going to Westminster Abbey. I do not think I would have given my advice had it been asked, unless it might have been to my own children. The principal objection to it seems to have been made
against the use of the building. To my own mind, this is among the sort of things of which St. Paul speaks, when he says they are lawful, but not expedient. God never chose but one place to set his name there. He never hallowed but one altar and one building, whence the worship of his people might go up with peculiar acceptance, and his presence in any special manner be expected: an institution which past with the legal dispensation. All places under the gospel are alike to God, wherever his people are assembled to worship, there is his temple and his church : and I cannot think that it is any ordinance of his which is transgressed by the secular using of a sacred building ; else could man not take down a place of worship, or shut it up, or transfer the building to other purposes, when no longer required for worship; I mean, supposing the consecration to be of God. But the same motive that has induced the church, in every age, to consecrate and set apart certain places for public worship, must assuredly forbid the profanation of them.
If man is so much a creature of sense, that sensible and external things must be brought in aid of his devotion; if he needs all the helps and all the restraints of customs, and forms, and human ordinances, to keep before him the things that pertain to godliness, surely the wisdom that appoints these things, should perceive the danger of perverting them, or loosening their hold upon the mind, or weakening the operation by which, through the senses, they act upon the conscience. It appears to me, that every motive which can induce men to raise a magnificent edifice, or any edifice at all, for the worship of God, ought to forbid its use for any other purpose whatever, while it continues to be so appropriated. At the same time, I must think that a single instance of misappropriation has been thought too much of, when it is, and I believe always has been, in many ways, the custom of our church so to invalidate its own acts of consecration. As long as it is the custom, we offend against no ordinance of man by going; and, if, as I have supposed, we transgress no ordinance of God, it is a thing to be decided by the mere feeling of each person individually, whether it will injuriously affect themselves.
This with respect to the building. There are many other considerations, on which pious people differ as to such celebrations, with reference to the public assembly, to the use of the divine words, to such an application of music generally, and in other places. The honest mind must and will, after all is said, decide upon these things for itself-to walk by our own conscience, not by another's. Every such doubt is but one among a thousand, all of which must be determined upon general principles, upon settled rules of action, founded on God's purpose and man's responsibility for the use of what he has. While I do not desire to give an opinion of a single application of the gift, I am impressed with the immense importance of music, as a power committed to us of God, for purposes of his own, but taken possession of since the fall by other claimants, for other purposes ; and of which he demands of his people the restitution. Under this impression, I thought to write a paper upon the uses of music ; but I have occupied so much space with my prelude, that if I fulfil my purpose, it must be in a future number of